As a former Spanish Immersion teacher I’ve always had a passion for digging into opportunities to celebrate diversity. This month, with the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we have an easy focal point to spend some intentional time educating our children about an influential leader. While I highly recommend partaking in the MLK Jr. March as mentioned in Shanti’s recent post, I was typically limited to the four walls of a classroom, and even now, with my son only being a year-and-a-half old, I tend to lean into books to begin cultural explorations. So, I’ve created a list of the top five books I suggest reading to/with your kids this month.
*Spanish options will be noted when available.
1. I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
When I began reading books about MLK to my students, I loved starting off with this book because it allowed students to see beautiful illustrations alongside Dr. King’s actual words. It gives them a snapshot of everything Dr. King was about and gave us a good foundation to then take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
2. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy
This was a student favorite because we would read the Stories to Celebrate series for a myriad of holidays. It introduces children to facts about MLK’s life while also describing why we would want to celebrate this day as a class.
*Also available in Spanish.
3. I am Martin Luther King Jr. by Brad Meltzer
Ordinary People Change the World is another fun series, and kiddos seem to love the illustrations and relatability as the author begins portraying Dr. King as a young boy. The dialogue will keep your little reader enticed while satisfying your need to discuss the inequalities MLK had to face. If you have an older kiddo I suggest using the dialogue bubbles for interactive play. Encourage each of you to play a role and then discuss how it would’ve felt to actually be that person.
4. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
An award winner for a reason, Doreen Rappaport illustrates a beautiful picture of Dr. King’s tenacity and ability to “fight” using his words. It mentions other world leaders and how they made a huge impact using love as a platform.
I am particularly excited to read this one to my son to help him learn the importance of determination, grit, and how his words can be powerful enough to change the world.
5. Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.? by Bonnie Bader
As I’m concluding my list, I’m realizing I am a big fan of series books for children, which I believe helps them get more excited about reading. If you can find a series that your child can’t seem to get enough of, buy/borrow them ALL and turn that kid into a bookworm!
This book is a good, early stages chapter book, great for end-of-year second graders and into late elementary school. It’s a descriptive biography with great historical facts, more detailed descriptions than some of the aforementioned books, and fun, intermittent illustrations.
*Also available in Spanish.
Whether you read one book or all of them, using Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an opportunity to educate your child is something you’ll be happy you did. Don’t feel like you need to break the bank and buy all new books. Visit your nearest San Antonio Public Library Branch to check out a copy or, better yet, use the website to ensure a copy is available and waiting for you the next time you visit.