10 Inspiring Children's Books to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Updated: Jan 12
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a world free of hate, prejudice, and violence. Unfortunately that dream has not yet been realized. We can however, continue to work towards it.
To celebrate Dr. King's life, America celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. It's observed on the third Monday of January each year. This date sometimes falls on Dr. King's birthday which is January 15th.
“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Many people choose to make the celebration of Dr. King a day of service. They find ways to give back to their communities in honor of the way Dr. King committed his life to improving our nation and beyond. We've listed 10 ways for children to serve their community in this post: 10 Ways Children Can Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Below we've curated 10 beautiful children's books that will inspire children to use their voice, take action, and work to keep Dr. King's dream of equality alive.
The #1 New York Times Bestselling Who Was? series expands into the board book space, bringing age-appropriate biographies of influential figures to readers ages 2-4.
The chronology and themes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s meaningful life are presented in a masterfully succinct text, with just a few sentences per page. The fresh, stylized illustrations are sure to captivate young readers and adults alike. With a read-aloud biographical summary in the back, this age-appropriate introduction honors and shares the life and work of one of the most influential civil rights activists of our time. Purchase here
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."
On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation's history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson's magnificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults alike. The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, 50 years later, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation's past. Purchase here
You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall. You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience. 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. Purchase here
This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final stand for justice before his assassination--when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.
In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city's refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his I've Been to the Mountaintop sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose. Purchase here
Using colorful infographics, this book presents over 250 facts about Martin Luther King, a minister who campaigned for the rights of African Americans during America’s Civil Rights Movement.
This graphic retelling of his story gives children a visual snapshot of his life and the world he grew up in, while educating them on everything from civil rights to the power of words. It includes an overview of his life, a timeline spread, a family outline, and a geographical summary of important places. It also features ‘Did You Know’ facts and inspiring quotes. Purchase here
With Martin's sermons and Mahalia's songs, folks were free to shout, to sing their joy.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. Told through Andrea Davis Pinkney's poetic prose and Brian Pinkney's evocative illustration, the stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side -- as they would one day walk -- following the journey from their youth to a culmination at this historical event when they united as one and inspiring kids to find their own voices and speak up for what is right. Purchase here
The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. reveals six timeless and universal principles that encompass the civil rights leader’s greatest legacy: Love will see you through.
Growing up as the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Farris Watkins witnessed firsthand the principles and values that “Uncle M.L.” practiced and lived by throughout his fight for equality. Drawing from experiences and episodes both personal and well-known, Dr. Watkins artfully details the guiding beliefs of one of the greatest men in history. Including “have courage” and “love your enemies,” these six hallmarks of virtue and nonviolence reinforce the truth that “the universe honors love” and will inspire readers of all ages.
Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there's little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it.
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.
In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King's life -- and of his assassination -- through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning.
Andrea's stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian's lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality -- and whose courage to make it happen -- changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream. Purchase here
I couldn't play on the same playground as the white kids.
I couldn't go to their schools.
I couldn't drink from their water fountains.
There were so many things I couldn't do.
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.
Frank Morrison's emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson's moving and poetic words document this remarkable time. Purchase here
Discover the life of Martin Luther King Jr-a story for kids ages 6 to 9 about standing up for civil rights
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.
Of all the Martin Luther King Jr books for kids, this one really helps you explore how Martin went from being a kid with a dream to an outstanding leader who made America a better place for everyone. How will his life inspire you to do what's right?
All Martin Luther King Jr books for kids should include:
Path to power-Unlike other Martin Luther King Jr books for kids, this one has a visual timeline so you can see Martin's progress through life.
Word definitions-This standout among Martin Luther King Jr books for kids has a helpful glossary for the more advanced words and ideas inside.
Lasting change-Everything that Martin Luther King Jr books for kids should be, this book explains how Martin made the world a better place for future generations.
If you've been searching for Martin Luther King Jr books for kids that have beautiful illustrations and easy-to-read chapters, look no further-this one has it all
Note: There's 11 books in this list. I just couldn't choose which book to leave off the list to make it land at 10, but I loved the title and decided to leave it at that. :-)
“I have a dream...” Who began one of America’s greatest speeches with those words? In this BrainPOP video, you'll learn about life of the civil rights activist and nonviolent protester, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (YouTube)
Once upon a time, there was a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. He taught us that things won't always be awesome, but your response can be. Remember, things don't always have to be they are. We can change them! Kids can change them. This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrate the promise of change with Kid President. (YouTube)
Hear Dr. King: “Our God is Marching On” – Selma, Alabama, March 25, 1965
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