Today we celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s radical legacy of nonviolent social change. Dr. King was a titan in the civil rights movement, along with countless others. When starting conversations with the young people in our lives about racism, prejudice and the civil rights movement, children's books are a great way to learn, understand and spark conversations.
Here are 8 books we recommend to borrow from the library or buy from a local bookstore:
1. I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s daughter, Dr. Bernice A. King: “My father’s dream continues to live on from generation to generation, and this beautiful and powerful illustrated edition of his world-changing "I Have a Dream" speech brings his inspiring message of freedom, equality, and peace to the youngest among us—those who will one day carry his dream forward for everyone.”
2. The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Christine Platt: Martin Luther King Jr became one of the most important civil rights leaders in America by fighting for equality for black people. Before he made history with his powerful speeches and peaceful protests, Martin was a dedicated, smart kid who loved to learn. He challenged racism and overcame hardships to follow his passion and do the right thing.
3. A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstien: Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. "It's terrible to be circling up there without a place to land." Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.
4. Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange: Walking many miles to school in the dusty road, young Coretta Scott knew the unfairness of life in the segregated south. A yearning for equality began to grow. Together with Martin Luther King, Jr., she helped lead change through nonviolent protest. It was the beginning of a journey—with dreams of freedom for all.
5. Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport: This biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through his own words. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time. Doreen Rappaport uses quotes from some of his most beloved speeches to tell the story of his life and his work in a simple, direct way.
6. Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream And You by Carole Boston Weatherford: Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King's life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford's poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King's example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King.
7. Fearless Freedom by Corinne L. Gaile: More than anything, eleven-year-old Bernice Givens wants to be a freedom fighter in the civil rights movement that is sweeping the American South. She gets her chance when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to Birmingham, Alabama, to start a campaign. But after what happens on the day she marches against segregation, Bernice spends her nights fending off bad dreams, her days avoiding the marches and all of her time hiding a shameful secret from her friends and family—that she is a deeply afraid. During the historic spring and summer of 1963, with help from her family and her new friend Betsy, a blind girl from up North who faces a different kind of discrimination, Bernice struggles to understand fear and regain the courage to continue her fight against injustice.
8. Dear Martin Paperback by Nic Stone: Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.