Sharing Martin Luther King Jr. with Kids

Martin Luther Ling Jr. | Illustration by Brad Sneed

Martin Luther King Jr. | Illustration by Brad Sneed

Growing up on the plains in a mostly white neighborhood in a mostly white town in a mostly white state, I remember my 3rd grade teacher showing films about Martin Luther King Jr. and how his nonviolent protests shaped American history. As a parent, though, I’ve often sometimes wondered how to best to share Martin Luther King Jr. with my own young children. I’ve wondered: “How young is too young?” or “Will sharing the shameful side of American history hurt my kids?”

But like most important topics, we’ve resolved to err on the side of sharing. We know that if we’re not having lots of small-but-important conversations with our kids about topics that matter, their friends will. So over the past few years, here are a few of the ways we’ve tried to share the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. with our kids.

Read Together
Of course, one of our favorite ways to share ideas with kids is through picture books. Leading up to Martin Luther King day, your public library will likely feature a special display featuring books about Martin Luther King Jr. Check out this post for a list of picture books that are appropriate for your children.

Or if you can’t make it to the library, this video features David Adler’s A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watch Together
Each year on Martin Luther King day, you’ll hear and see lots of people speaking on his behalf. But guess what: he’s better at it! Here are a couple of our favorite short videos featuring the Reverend:

“I Have a Dream Speech”
August 26th, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

A 5 minute biography
A great primer on King’s life and legacy.

Serve Together
One of the best ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. is to make his holiday a Day-On rather than a day-off. There are lots of family-oriented service opportunities. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Make ‘blessing bags‘, survival kits of non-perishable food, water and essentials to keep in the car for the moments when you see people in need around your city.
  2. Serve in a shelter or food bank. Be sure to call ahead to learn what age-appropriate service activities are available.

Or here is a great post with ideas about family-oriented service outings.


Happy Martin Luther King Day! Happy sharing!

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