In preparation for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we decided to pick out a few books about Dr. King to learn more about this important man. One of the best age-appropriate books that I found for a kindergartener was David A. Adler’s A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. The text was simple and easy to understand, and the images were interesting and covered plenty of historically significant events without being scary or overwhelming.
That said, the book is a little dry; there are few descriptions of how King really felt growing up. These would surely be speculative anyway, for sure, but it’s important for children to understand how racism makes people feel, and just how important it is to stand up against it.
The most inspiring passage, I think, is in a section that deals with King’s childhood. It discusses how King cried when two of his friends decided that they would no longer play with him, and how he did not understand why the color of his skin mattered to anyone. His mother then explains, in the book, about how slavery occurred in the Americas, and how that the history of such an atrocity still lingered in the country, barring black and white people from being equal. It’s stated very simply to allow discussion with children, and I really appreciate this as an introduction to slavery for young children.
The rest of King’s life is explored, from his heroes to his development of reading and his ministry. The protests during his life, and the threats on his very life itself, are covered, and King’s words about meeting hate with love are met with a very beautiful picture of King. The protest signs featured in the book are another great way to teach about King as well as the right to protest and how important it is to stand up for what you believe in.
King’s famous March on Washington, the changes he helped to bring about, and his tragic death are all covered in the text as well. Each is met with dignity and simplicity, which is perhaps the best way to introduce these topics to children. I would definitely recommend this picture book to children over this holiday. I know many of us use the day as simply a day off work and school, but I hope that parents and teachers are using it to help highlight our history and to celebrate King’s life next week.