Martin Luther King Jr. was a prominent leader and activist of the Civil Rights Movement whose legacy lives on more than 50 years after his death. He is most known for helping organize the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, a year before he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to combat racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.

Teaching students about Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy is a great way to show how courage and resilience can change the world. The inspirational message of Dr. King and the stories of his efforts to end segregation and racism in America will have a tremendous impact on students as they recognize how Dr. King’s words still resonate today. 

The following books are excellent resources for students in grades K-8 and can be used to teach about Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the Civil Rights Movement in America and as part of larger Black History Month and social studies curriculums.

A First Biography for Young Readers

In Let's Read About... Martin Luther King, Jr., readers in grades K-1 will learn about how racism shaped Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood as he grew up in the South. This biography is a great introduction to Martin Luther King Jr. and how his courage led him to stand up for the things he believed in as he fought for justice and racial equality. 

Dr. King’s Sister Shares Memories of a Boy Who Became a Leader

Renowned educator Christine King Farris, older sister of the late Dr. King, wrote two books about her brother’s life and activism, for readers in grades 1-4.  

In My Brother Martin, Farris joins with celebrated illustrator Chris Soentpiet to present a sister’s memories of growing up with Martin, including the pivotal boyhood experience that inspired Dr. Kings lifelong pursuit of equality that ultimately changed history.  

In March On!, Farris presents her account of the 1963 March on Washington in the definitive tribute to the man, the march, and the speech that changed a nation. London Ladd's beautiful full-color illustrations bring to life the thousands of people from all over the country who came to the nation's capitol to inspire social change, culminating in Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Celebration of a Peaceful Warrior 

In Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior (grades 4-7), readers are given a clear-eyed history of the trials, achievements, and murder of the civil rights icon, Martin Luther King Jr. His life, work, and death are traced in poignant and personalized moments from his childhood through his career as a minister and organizer of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, freedom rides, sit-ins, and protest marches. The biography doesn’t shy away from the hardships and violence activists faced and covers Dr. King’s assassination and the establishment of a national holiday in his memory, ensuring that his legacy lives on.

A Fresh and Emotional Tribute 

In Martin Rising (grades 5-8), Andrea and Brian Pinkney present a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion to convey the final months of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, and of his assassination, through metaphor, spirituality, and multi-layers of meaning. This fresh perspective of Martin Luther King Jr. reminds students that courage and conviction can make dreams a reality and that even after his death, Dr. King continues to transform and inspire everyone who shares his dream.

Whether students are reading about Dr. King’s early life or the impact his legacy has had on America, they will learn just how important Martin Luther King Jr. was in shaping the world they live in today. And readers of all ages will be inspired to follow his lead and make their own impact on the world through courage and conviction.

 

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