MLK books, MLK day books for kids, Martin Luther King Jr books for kids, books to celebrate MLK

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. with 3 Children’s Books

MLK Day and His Legacy told through Children’s Books

It wasn’t just African-Americans who benefited by the work of Martin Luther King, Junior, but all people of color. If it had not been for Dr. King, I would have never had gotten into Harvard as an undergraduate. Ivy League colleges only let in Asian Americans during the 1970s after the issue went to the Supreme Court.

My mother, who was forced to relocate during WWII, knew first hand the prejudice that all people of color faced in America. Now, two generations later, I’m not sure if my kids — Chinese, Japanese and Korean — will ever feel the sting of Anti-Asian-American prejudice. I hope not though they will no doubt face it when they apply to college.

Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford find in their study of selective colleges that Asian-Americans must score 140 points higher on average than whites on the math and verbal portions of the SAT in order to have the same chances of admission.

What the anti-Asian quotas [in college admissions] amount to is affirmative action for white people and that, with its strong stench of white supremacy and entrenched privilege, is noxious. from The Washington Monthly

I live near Boston and when I first came here 25 years ago, there was racial tension so think that it was palpable. African-American classmates were harassed routinely by Harvard Security. Riding the subway required a blind eye and a deaf ear.

I remember how surprised I was, coming from Southern California, when a kid shouted insults to me and my friend when we were examining the architecture of Copley Plaza for a class paper. He was from Queens so he was unfazed. I was shocked and then furious. My delayed reaction would have been to yell back, had I had the presence of mind to come up with something to say. Even today, I still remember that incident vividly. A point of reference for how much Boston has changed.

And that MKL, in facing hatred dead in the eye, could respond without violence is a lesson that is both amazing and still relevant. Would I have been able to withstand prejudice without violence? Oh, I doubt it. It would be a lesson in Zen that I have yet to master.

Thank you to Martin Luther King, Junior and his family who sacrificed so that the future would be a better place for us all.

Anti-Asian prejudice in our society has no doubt declined, but like other sorts of prejudice in our country, it has a long and ugly history. The Chinese Exclusion Act banned immigration on the basis of race, and various miscegenation laws prevented Asians from marrying whites. And while clearly we’re past the worst of it, hostility to nonwhites and to immigrants is very alive in this country — witness the modern conservative movement. from The Washington Monthly


The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Ruby Bridges is coming to visit my elementary school. As first African-American child to integrate a New Orleans school, Ruby Bridges is living history. Dr. Robert Coles, her psychologist, tells her powerful story of her inner strength that enabled her to endure the racism and persecution that she and her parents faced daily. This picture book is appropriate for 2nd grade and up.

My other connection to this book is that my college boyfriend’s roommate was the author Robert Coles’ son, Bob Coles. Small world indeed!


Ruby Bridges’ story is also immortalized in Norman Rockwell’s painting

“The Problem We All Live With” (Ruby Bridges)
Norman Rockwell
The Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
Ruby Bridges, Norman Rockwell, the problem we are all living with, Civil Rights Movement through art,

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

Hate Can Not Drive Out Hate. Only Love Can Do That.

A beautifully illustrated picture book does justice to Dr. King’s biography, showing us the influences in his life as a young boy that shaped him into the great man he became. [picture book, ages 5 and up]

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

Debut author Augusta Scattergood is a retired children’s librarian from the South and spent ten years writing this middle grade chapter book depicting life during the Civil Rights period from the eyes of a white girl who just wants to celebrate her birthday, on the 4th of July, at her local pool. Little does she realize that it’s been shut down to avoid desegregation. Freedom Fighters arrive in town and her older sister gets entangled. The battle for desegregation is ultimately to take place at the public library. What I love about this book is that it inspires the reader to realize that every person makes a difference in the battle for right versus wrong.

I read Augusta Scattergood’s blog and am in contact with her through social media which is what I love about blogging; the ability to meet so many wonderful people. She told me that she would do Skype author visits to schools at no charge if 1) the kids read her book and 2) if the school buys 2-3 copies for their school library. Not a high price of admission at all! What I’ve enjoyed in her blog is the fan mail from the kids she meets in doing author visits. I’d love to get her at my school! We do a 4th grade Civil Rights unit that would be perfect for this!

What do your kids learn or do for Martin Luther King Jr Day at school? Do they know who he is and why they get the day off? My son ,when he was in preschool, thought MLK Day was because we used to have a king but then he died. We about died laughing.

p.s. I have more books for children on The Civil Rights Movement and Black History Month:

Top 10:  African American Picture Books. If you read the 10 books in order, it covers the key periods and people in African American history through picture books.

As Fast As Words Could Fly: Picture Book of the Day. Ruby Bridges came to visit my elementary school and her story is contrasted with 14-year-old Mason Steele who used his typing skills both as a writer and a speed typist to prove that he had the right to attend a previously all white school.

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Children’s Books. I have seven books for kids including picture books, YA, non-fiction and chapter books.

Ten Chapter Books for Kids on the Civil Rights Movement. This list covers many genres including picture books, chapter books, Young Adult and non-fiction.

5th Grade Slavery Unit. I cover a little of the history of the Underground Railroad where I live, what life was like during this time and book list including picture books and chapter books.

Booker T Washington: Picture Book of the Day. The story of Booker T. Washington told through an advanced picture book.

Please click on image of book to examine at Amazon or click here to view at Barnes and Noble.

MLK books, MLK day books for kids, Martin Luther King Jr books for kids, books to celebrate MLK

Shutterfly Photo Books

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Artchoo

    Oh, thanks for this post, Mia. Of course, as a white chick MLK day doesn’t have the same impact for me. (On a personal level, I mean.) So I’m so glad he is someone our kids learn about and reflect on. You’ve made me think about how far our country has come in our generation, in terms of attitude and getting past ignorance and fear of other cultures. So far to go, still, obviously, but just the fact that our kids are routinely focusing on MLK as such an important person in our country’s history is great- it’s bound to affect a few kids in school who may be exposed to prejudicial thinking at home. Okay, end of monologue. Carry on.
    Artchoo recently posted…Wax Resist Art-Making With Little KidsMy Profile

    • Hi Artchoo,
      It amazes me, I have to say, that my kids really do not notice or care about the color of a person’s skin at my elementary school. In Kindergarten, it was a bigger deal if a kid had two moms. Not that the kid cared, but it something they picked up on and asked about more out of curiosity. My elementary school achieves diversity by bussing in inner city kids to gain more African Americans and Latino Americans. We have some in our neighborhood but not enough for a few kids per grade.

      Now I think the new diversity in elementary school is special needs kids. It’s something that every kid needs to learn about in order to gain compassion and tolerance for. It’s especially important for those kids whose special needs are not obvious, affect their socialization and don’t get an assigned aide.

      I guess our country has come a long way in terms of racial discrimination. It’s still a battle, of course, but I’m hopeful that our generation of children are color blind.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. with 3 Children’s BooksMy Profile

  2. This is an excellent post! We’ve come a long ways, and have ways in which we can continue to improve.
    maryanne recently posted…Valentine’s Day Themed Twitter Party with ALEX Toys This Thursday!My Profile

  3. Great post and excellent book selections! Thanks for sharing at The Children’s Bookshelf.

  4. Great post! You bring up a number of important issues–like the fact that despite how far we’ve come, racism and white privilege still exist and need to be discussed and worked against.
    Great book suggestions too!
    Katrina recently posted…En la Clase: Black Indians, Sugar and SlaveryMy Profile

  5. Ann

    This is a great post and I think MLK day is great. That is terrible that you had to experience prejudiced. That upsets me.
    They even teach it in my son’s preschool and he explained all about it to me Monday morning, that it doesn’t matter what color your skin is and that someone shot him and that it is okay to die only when you are very old.
    My daughter read the first 2 books in school. I want us to read them here too. There is a Ruby Bridges movie we watched a couple years ago – very powerful.
    Ann recently posted…Tweet Hearts Giveaway and Math PrintableMy Profile

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