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16 Children's Books About Martin Luther King Jr. To Introduce Them To The Icon

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Children’s books are an excellent way to introduce kids to the wise words and actions of people you’d like them to emulate, and these stories about Martin Luther King, Jr. are a worthy addition to any family’s library. From his peaceful marches to his inspiring speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King is an amazing role model for any kid growing up in today’s tumultuous time.

For anyone still waiting for the “right time” to talk about race with their kids, "the answer is now and always" as Romper columnist Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs put it. Books can be an invaluable tool if you're not sure how to start. The activist’s biography, speeches, and legacy are all addressed in these children’s books, which range from brightly illustrated board books for toddlers to portraits of the peaceful marches told from a child’s perspective.

These talented writers and illustrators have told the MLK story from a whole range of different perspectives, all of which can help children understand the way King worked for desegregation and voting rights for Black Americans. Even young kids can see the wisdom in King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech, which is as moving today as it was nearly 60 years ago.

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1

A Picture Book Memoir By King’s Own Son

Martin Luther King III offers insight into the family life of an icon in My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a look into the warm, loving family life of the minister as he made American history.

2

Collage & Watercolor Artwork Celebrate King’s Legacy

Gorgeous multimedia artwork helps bring King’s lessons to life in Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier. By combining King’s quotes with Collier’s visual creations, kids can learn about the Civil Rights leader’s words in an approachable, beautiful book.

3

A Story By MLK’s Niece

MLK’s niece Angela Farris Watkins outlines the minister’s guiding principles, such as “love your enemies.” With beautiful illustrations by Sally Wern Comport, this book is designed to inspire readers of all ages.

4

A Book That Connects Dr. King’s Life To Today’s Kids

Show kids how the Civil Rights leader’s timeless legacy is still important in today’s world: Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream and You, by Carole Boston Weatherford and James E. Ransome, encourages kids to “stamp out hatred” and “march to your own conscience.”

5

A Biography For Early Readers

Aimed at first and second-grade readers, A Picture Book Of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler and Robert Casilla is an accessible introduction to the Civil Rights leader’s life.

6

Illustrations Bring King’s Story To Life

I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos captures the minister’s early life and later advocacy work with bright and appealing illustrations. It is part of the Ordinary People Change The World biography series for kids.

7

King's Dream Speech, Illustrated

To honor Dr. King, why not introduce your child to his own words? Illustrations by Kadir Nelson highlight Dr. King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech for children (and adults alike) in this beautiful book. It’s an amazing way to introduce your kid to one of the most important speeches in American history.

8

A Peaceful March From A Child’s Perspective

Join two girls as they sneak away to join a peaceful march with Dr. King. A Sweet Smell Of Roses by Angela Johnson and Eric Velazquez is a beautiful portrayal of the youth who also took part in the Civil Rights movement.

9

The Kids Of The Civil Rights Movement

Let The Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson highlights the thousands of Black children who marched for Civil Rights after hearing Dr. King speak. It’s a powerful look at the way children’s voices can also affect activism and positive change.

10

A Toddler-Friendly Board Book

Telling a big story in only 200 words, this board book is a wonderful introduction to the life of Dr. King for even the youngest kids. The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., by Johnny Ray Moore and Amy Wummer, talks about King’s time as a student, minister, and Civil Rights leader.

11

A Story Of Two Legends

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney looks at the friendship between Dr. King and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who joined him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for his “I Have A Dream” speech. It’s a stirring look at the power of wise words and powerful songs.

12

A Classic Bio For All Readers

National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Kitson Jazynka provides just enough info about the leader’s life in kid-friendly language. Filled with sidebars, diagrams, and fun facts, this book is designed to hold the interest of elementary-aged readers.

13

A Sister’s Ode To Her Brother Dr. King

What’s it like when your sibling becomes an American icon? In this heartfelt story, Dr. King’s sister, Christine King Farris, recalls the March on Washington in March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World.

14

The Story Of A Speech

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein and Jerry Pinkney tells the incredible story about the lead-up to Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Told in a free verse style and matched with gorgeous illustrations, this book gives the backstory to some of the most well-known words in American history.

15

A Witness With A Front Row Seat

Child Of The Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton follows the author’s participation in the march from Selma to Montgomery in support of Uncle Martin, AKA Dr. King himself. It’s a fascinating look at the Civil Rights movement from a child’s perspective.

16

Imagine MLK As A Kid

Help kids relate to the esteemed activist with a fun-loving look at the leader’s childhood. When Martin Luther King Jr. Wore Roller Skates by Mark Andrew Weakland explores King’s childhood pursuits, from roller skating to football and basketball.

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