My favorite time to homeschool is on holidays. Holidays give us a special day to focus on one particular person or issue, it’s just asking to be a unit study! So while other children are enjoying a day off of school, we will be learning about WHY Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is worthy of a day of celebration. Here are some of my favorite books about Dr. King.
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My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Written by his sister, Christine King Farris, this picture book gives us a direct account of Martin as a child. I think a lot of times, people (adults and children alike) forget that famous adults were once children, too. This book is a great reminder that Dr. King was once just a kid, just like the kid sitting on the couch next to you, and that even the youngest of us have the opportunity to grow into heroes.
Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? I think if I had to pick one series of books with which to homeschool, the “Who/What/When Was…” series would be it. These chapter books are quick reads full of information. This biography is accessible to beginning chapter readers, but interesting for older kids as well. To be honest, I’ve read them myself to get a foundation for an unfamiliar topic before I begin teaching something! This book gives us a good look at King’s childhood and personal life, as well as the major moments that shaped him and the Civil Rights Movement. It introduces topics for further research such as Malcolm X, the Greensboro sit-ins, and Rosa Parks. This book also contains many photographs, helping kids get a more visual idea of the way things were then.
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the most beautifully illustrated books I’ve read, Martin’s Big Words weaves Dr. King’s own words with those of the author to create a beautiful and easy to read story of his life. This book makes Martin Luther King accessible to all ages in an entertaining and appropriate way. This picture book biography covers his life from childhood to death and gives children a wonderful introduction to this great man.
I am Martin Luther King, Jr. Another book series I love is “Ordinary People Change the World.” With adorable illustrations and easy to understand language, I am Martin Luther King, Jr., is a great introduction for even your tiniest children. This book introduces children to Martin as a child and grows with him to show the great things he achieved as an adult. This one is geared toward the younger set, and it doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the violence that took place nor King’s tragic death, but it highlights his mission and message. This book is very well written and entertaining, and a great place to start if you would like to share Dr. King with your preschooler.
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This book offers a unique perspective, as it was written by Dr. King’s son, Martin Luther King, III. We get to see Dr. King as more than just a Civil Rights hero, but as a father. This picture book memoir offers personal stories of fun and happy times in the King home, as well as explaining the fear and uncertainty of the times. This book is written in a conversational tone, which keeps kids’ attention really well. It does deal with heavy issues, like the violence and bigotry, but keeps it light enough for elementary aged readers. Like My Brother Martin, this book gives us a different look at Dr. King, allowing us to see him as the human he was and making him more relatable to kids.
If you would like to delve deeper into the topic of Civil Rights with your child, I also recommend If You Were a Kid During the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins. For older children, consider watching Selma with them. Selma is rated PG-13, but I watched it with my sons when they were 9 and 11. It was a bit boring for the nine year old, but very much enjoyed by the eleven. This movie is no holds barred, so don’t share it with them if you aren’t willing to have big conversations about the violence and language of that time. We watched the movie as part of a month-long study of the entire Civil Rights Movement, and it complimented the study nicely. You know your kids better than I do, and I definitely recommend checking Selma out for yourself before viewing it with your kids if you aren’t sure.