Civil Rights Chapter Books for Kids
How do you teach your child to stand up for what is right, especially if it’s dangerous? I don’t know the answer to that, but I suspect that it helps to have role models who have overcome hatred, death threats, jail time and violence to fight for a better world.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Junior, I have selected ten children’s and young adult books, both fiction and non-fiction, to help us all to understand exactly the magnitude of achievement that Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished during his too short life.
Happy Martin Luther King, Junior Day! And thank you to all the unsung heroes out there who stand up to injustice every day!
10. Glory B by Augusta Scattergood
Former librarian Augusta Scattergood’s first middle grade chapter book tackles racism in Mississippi during 1964 when a small town’s pool faces de-segregation. 12-year-old Gloriana Hemphill’s birthday coincides with the United States and every year she celebrates at the town public pool, but in 1964 the pool stays mysteriously closed. As she tries to make sense of what is happening, her older sister gets involved with a young Freedom Fighter and things start to get complicated.
What is so great about this book is that it puts the Civil Rights Movement into a microcosm that a young reader (4th grade and up) can understand and relate to. Sometimes being a hero is as subtle as showing up to a party at a library.
9. Round and Round Together: Taking a Merry-Go-Round Ride into the Civil Rights Movement (The Nautilus Series) by Amy Nathan
This is a great non-fiction chapter book to pair with Glory B as it also has a swimming pool segregation issue and it also is the back story behind the movie Hairspray. Centered around the a public park that undergoes de-segregation, this is the true story of the Civil Rights Movement as it played out in Maryland. This is exactly the book I would hand to a child — ages 14 and up — who wants to know more.
8. Rosa Parks: Not Giving In (The Time Traveler’s Adventure) by James Collins
An audio interactive advanced picture book with CD that tells the story of Rosa Parks as a time travel adventure in which students go back in time and sit on the bus with Rosa Parks on that fateful day in December of 1955. [ages 6-10]
7. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
When Ruby Bridges was 6-years-old, she was the only African American student to attend a newly desegregated school in Louisiana. Her extraordinary ability to withstand a hostile environment while viewing her tormentors (adult and child) with forgiveness makes her an inspiration to us all. My kids were lucky to meet her at a school event a few years ago. She continues to inspire! If you want to see if you can get her to come to your school, go to this link: www.rubybridges.com/ [ages 4-8]
6. Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers
In 1958, the state of Mississippi began an undercover operation, The Sovereignty Commission, to spy on and potentially squelch the Civil Rights movement. Bowers’ expose of this unknown organization reveals the extent to which some were willing to go to see segregation remain the law of the state.
5. Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
This is one of my very favorite YA (Young Adult) chapter books in 2011 as it has so many interesting story lines from a coming of age story of high school Freshman Janie, to her suit-turned-blogger farmer mother, and a Civil Rights story of ordinary people turned heroes. It’s this story of unsung heroes — that anyone can be a hero if they follow their heart and stand up to injustice — that is a lesson that can be reapplied again and again whether the issue is Civil Rights or bullying or anything else. While it seems like a hero is someone famous like Martin Luther King, Jr., I’d suspect he’d say that the heroes are the ones willing to show up and stand up to be counted. I hope that this is a lesson that I can somehow impart to my children.
4. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
I am just now starting One Crazy Summer and it looks like a fantastic read. But don’t take my word for it, it won a Newbery Honor Award, National Book Award Finalist and on and on and on. Set in Oakland, California, three sisters visit their mother who has abandoned them and hang out at a center run by the Black Panther Party. Though this book ties into the Civil Rights Movement, it’s a outstanding chapter book that is a literary achievement!
3. They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Bartoletti provides readers with an in-depth look at the formation of the KKK and its subsequent evolution into a violent organization. With primary source material, she details the horrific history of the Ku Klux Klan and the people who fell victim to its reign of terror. This was what Martin Luther King, Jr. was up against (Young Adult Non-Fiction YALSA Award Short List) …
2. The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
I just bought this chapter book and am excited to read it. In case I don’t finish by MLK day, here’s a summary from Wikipedia: The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 is a historical fiction book by Christopher Paul Curtis, written in 1995, and republished in 1997. It is about an African-American family living in the town of Flint, Michigan who goes to their grandmother’s home inBirmingham, Alabama to get Byron to behave, in the year of 1963. The book was Curtis’ first novel, and received a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award. He is the author of the Newbery Award winner Bud, Not Buddy. The book includes the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, one of the most critical events in the book.
1. Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
This multi-award winning multicultural picture book somehow manages to put the power of Martin Luther King Junior’s words into a format that is accessible to kids as young at preschoolers while simultaneously telling the story of the Civil Rights Movement in an accessible way. A must read! [ages 4-9]
To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.