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Cover art via Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

5 Books to Read on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Pick up a picture book to celebrate and honor MLK Jr.’s legacy.

Read on to learn from the story of Martin Luther King Jr., and many other freedom fighters, because today, like any other day, is a good time to inspire young people.

Let the Children March

By Monica Clark-Robinson; illustrated by Frank Morrison

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018)

The Children’s Crusade of 1963. Some may not know the integral part kids played in the Civil Rights Movement; how thousands of African American children and teens marched through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. Find power and inspiration in the poetic rendering of events and leaders in the movement, including Martin Luther King Jr., with “brown eyes flashing fire and love.”

Cover art via Scholastic

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World

By Christine King Farris; illustrated by London Ladd

(Scholastic Press, 2008)

Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister, Christine King Farris, offers nuggets of wisdom passed down through their family that guided her brother in his work for freedom. Farris’ detail and warm narration adds some familial color to the big day, August 28, 1963, and the moments leading up to it. Hard-working students might relate to Martin’s speech writing and editing process that kept him up all night. Young ones who participated in demonstrations in Denver this summer might feel a stir of recognition at the power and emotion.

Child of the Civil Rights Movement

By Paula Young Shelton; illustrated by Raul Colón

(Random House Kids, 2013)

Spun from the memories of Paula Young Shelton and her family, this tale follows a little girl in New York watching the Civil Rights Movement unfold on TV, then her journey South to Georgia, “back to Jim Crow.” She tells of experiencing discrimination at a restaurant, and of watching her father work with “Uncle Martin” (MLK) on the plan to march from Selma to Montgomery. From the girl’s point of view, the reader gets an inside look into the labor and love behind the important protests. 

Cover art via Boyds Mills & Kane

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop

By Alice Faye Duncan; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

(Calkins Creek, 2018)

Inspired by stories from a teacher who participated in the 1968 sanitation workers strike in Memphis, author Alice Faye Duncan tells the story of the protest, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s last stand for justice, through a child’s perspective. Nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, the narrator, unfolds a comprehensive story about the death of two sanitation workers and the marches that followed. She implores the reader: “Black men marched for honor, and I must tell the story. You must tell the story — so that no one will forget it.”

Cover art via Kathleen Krull

Women Who Broke the Rules: Coretta Scott King

By Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Laura Freeman

(Bloomsbury, 2015)

Bring Coretta Scott King, MLK’s wife, to the spotlight; you’ll see how powerful and accomplished she was in her own right. Learn about her work on the Civil Rights Act, the founding of the Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, and how she marched on for equality her whole life through. Praised for its informativeness and honesty, the book helps readers gain understanding of what she faced as a Black woman in the fight.

Read on to these titles that depict what the Kings fought for:

Antiracist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi; illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara

All Because You Matter, by Tami Charles; illustrated by Bryan Collier

I Am Every Good Thing, by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Gordon C. James

All Are Welcome, By Alexandra Penfold; illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

Black is a Rainbow Color, by Angela Joy; illustrated by Ekua Holmes

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