Martin Luther King Day Books: Post from Sprout’s Bookshelf
While we are enjoying some extra snuggle time with the Monkeys, we are so pleased to be able to bring you a series of guest posts from some of our favorite bloggers.
Today’s post comes to you from Mary of Sprout’s Bookshelf. We are fellow members of the Multicultural Kids Blogs group and share a love of children’s literature. Mary’s blog is an amazing resource for fun, educational books to read to your children, but it is much much more than that.
Mary is created her blog in order to “surround my son with books that support him, as part of a transracial family formed through international adoption.” Her blog features books on diversity of all sorts, and books that address various aspects of adoption. But don’t worry, as Mary assures us, “it’s not all serious — there are loads of fun read-alouds, engaging chapter books and some titles that just make Sprout giggle!”
Today she helps us get ready for Martin Luther King Day by introducing us to some great books that teach the meaning behind this important holiday.
One of the things I dearly love about children’s literature today is the plethora of excellent resources available for parents and teachers on nearly every subject. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of history and biography, where fantastic books abound, many of them picture books appropriate for preschoolers and elementary ages. Whether you’re homeschooling your children, looking to augment what they are studying in class, or just want to explore a topic in more depth, a visit to your local library can help you unearth a host of terrific titles to take home.
To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we in the United States observe a holiday in his honor on the third Monday of January each year. This holiday provides a great opportunity to discuss the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s many incredible contributions to the efforts to bring equal rights to all persons. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, we’d like to share a few of our favorite picture books about this great man, his life and his unwavering commitment to change the world.
Perhaps the best-known picture book about Dr. King is Doreen Rappaport’s Martin’s Big Words. Among the many awards this title has received are a Coretta Scott King Honor and a Caldecott Honor, and it’s not hard to see why when you consider illustrator Bryan Collier’s stunning artwork. What I love most about this title is the way Rappaport expresses Dr. King’s ideals in a way that even very young children can understand and relate with. In simple phrases, punctuated with Dr. King’s own words, Rappaport’s text paints a picture of this courageous man that is eloquent and moving.
For a more personal look at Dr. King, turn to My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris. “I am his older sister and I’ve known him longer than anyone else,” Farris writes, by way of introduction to her accessible and engaging picture book biography. Farris helps young readers understand why Dr. King developed his principles, but she never paints him as a saint – Martin was her younger brother, after all, and just as much trouble as you might expect. Still, her admiration for her brother’s bravery shines through. Gorgeous illustrations by Chris Sontpiet bring Farris’s words to life (and for an in-depth look at the March on Washington, check out Farris’s March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, another inspiring picture book selection).
With Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend, authors Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud put a fictionalized spin on real events. In Gee’s Bend, Alabama, a white sheriff does all he can to prevent the black residents from getting to vote. Spurred by Dr. King’s example, the Benders hitch up their mules and take the long way to register; and when Dr. King is fatally shot, it is the mules of Gee’s Bend who pull his coffin in the funeral procession. Connecting events of the past with a narrative set in the present, Ramsey and Stroud have created a book that’s accessible and entertaining at once.
Walter Dean Myers is our current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and widely recognized for literary excellence. So it comes as no surprise that his book I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a simply incredible snapshot of the key events of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s role in these events. This title has a tighter focus on the struggle for equality and is best suited to older elementary kids, who can better understand the concepts Myers discusses. The vivid artwork by Leonard Jenkins suits Myers’s text perfectly; an image of Dr. King giving his final speech is especially haunting.
Sometimes the best way to teach history to young children is through a personal story. That’s just what Carole Boston Weatherford does in her book Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins. Though this title centers around acts of peaceful resistance at lunch counters in North Carolina, a key turning point in the text comes when Dr. King speaks at a local college, which helps young readers connect Dr. King’s influence with the many ways blacks stood up for their civil rights. By centering the story around Connie, a young girl who witnesses friends and family participating in sit-ins, Weatherford makes the story more relatable and immediate for modern kids, and adults as well.
Thanks to Mary for this wonderful post, and hope everyone has a wonderful Martin Luther King Day this Monday!