Reading Roundup: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up in Washington for what he described as “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” It was a rally for equal rights, and the occasion that Reverend King delivered what later became known as the “I Have A Dream” speech. (You can read the original text here.) As the speech is celebrated today–and with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a national holiday–your children might very well have plenty of questions about the man. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up a few books that do an excellent job of summing up an inspirational life… [homepage photo via wikimedia]

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bonnie Bader

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader

This book is part of a series of “Who Was…” books, and it serves as an impressive summary of King’s story. The text is easy to follow, but the book really benefits from bountiful illustrations that tell the story of the civil rights pioneer. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.

Martin & Mahalia His Words Her Song

 Martin & Mahalia: His Words–Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

This book takes a complicated tale and turns it into an easily understood story of two important American figures. Children will learn the history of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson–and then see how their lives intertwined during the struggle for civil rights. The book is written in a way that captures a musical spirit, and the design of the illustrations literally shows how Martin and Mahalia bonded with each other. The book also tells a forgotten aspect to Reverend King’s famous speech, with him briefly thrown off topic until Mahalia shouted, “Tell them about your dream, Martin!” Recommended for grades 2-4.

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler

This inspiring book tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a very simple and straighforward way. It makes a real impact on young readers, too, since his life story is presented in a way that children can compare to their own. That’s also why it’s important that the end of his life is also presented in a very sensitive way. This book is particularly recommended for children who might be traumatized by the historical facts.  Recommended for kindergartners and up to 3 years of age.

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the bigger issues with celebrating today is that not many outlets can actually use Reverend King’s speech. It’s copyrighted–and has been since the 1960s. This book, however, provides the text of the entire speech. It’s also illustrated by some amazing paintings by artist Kadir Nelson. It’s a powerful presentation, and even includes a CD of King delivering the original speech. The full impact can best be appreciated by older children, of course, and you can consider this one to be recommended for ages 11 to 15.