Kiddosphere: A Birthday Celebration – Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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We have so many outstanding books about Martin Luther King Jr that choosing books for this post was difficult! If you’d like to share Dr. King’s legacy with your children (or for your own benefit–many patrons and staff members have told me how much they learn from and enjoy children’s nonfiction!), here are my top picks:

Out of all the picture book renditions of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, none can top Kadir Nelson’s I Have a Dream. Not only are the illustrations magnificent, but it also includes a CD recording of the speech.

Walter Dean Myers’s I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. biography is a strong choice for young readers.

I admire the March trilogy so much that I can’t leave it off this collection. Representative John Lewis is the sole surviving speaker from the March on Washington. If you haven’t read this graphic novel adaptation of his life story, you are missing out on one of the greatest graphic novels ever created.

Toward the end of his life, King’s work focused on workers’ rights; Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Hours is an insightful and moving look at his final days, which was centered on a sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis (where he was assassinated).

Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song is a gorgeously illustrated and told dual biography (in picture book form) of King and the great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson.

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received a Caldecott Honor in 2002 for Bryan Collier’s magnificent illustrations. This is a modern classic in children’s nonfiction.

If you need a fantastic civil rights read aloud, you need to read A Sweet Smell of Roses and/or We March. Both fictional stories are set during the 1963 March on Washington.

Young people were instrumental in the civil rights movement; Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March is a compelling and inspiring account of the Selma march through the perspective of Lynda Blackmon Lowery.
For more nonfiction titles on Martin Luther King, check out the JB King and/or the J 323.1 sections.

Looking for more program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers? Make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

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