Looking for some strong picture books to read aloud to your learners? Choose from this list of books for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!
Today I’m sharing a collection of strong picture books to read aloud – perfect for learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement in America.
My Daddy, Martin Luther King, Jr., by Martin Luther King III
My kids really enjoyed listening to this book about Martin Luther King, Jr. from the perspective of his son. It focuses on their family life while also teaching history. It doesn’t mention King’s assassination except in the small print at the end of the book. The illustrations are amazing!
I Have a Dream, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This is an absolutely stunning book which illustrates King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It’s hard to put into words how gorgeous Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are; you’ve got to get it to see for yourself. Strongly recommended as a read aloud for any age group!
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, by Trudi Strain Trueit
This is a very simple, informative book about King’s life and why and how we celebrate the holiday. I always recommend the Rookie books as quality nonfiction for young readers, but they also work well as read alouds for preschoolers.
Martin Luther King Jr., by Wil Mara
Here’s another Rookie reader – a beautifully simple (and short) biography that tells the story of King in a child-friendly way. Great for reading aloud to listeners in preschool and kindergarten.
This is the Dream, by Diane Z. Shore & Jessica Alexander
This lyrical rhyming book is a fantastic introduction to the civil rights movement. But it’s also a beautiful book that older listeners will enjoy. I absolutely love this treasure of a book which honors the people who brought about change through their peaceful protest.
Granddaddy’s Turn, by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
This gorgeous book captures a difficult time in U.S. history. It’s a powerful true-life story of a boy’s perspective of growing up in the segregated south. The boy accompanies his proud, excited granddaddy to vote for the first time – and is heartbroken when Granddaddy’s ballot is torn up by a police officer because he can’t pass the literacy test. Years later, the boy successfully votes for the first time, bringing a picture of Granddaddy with him. With beautiful illustrations and meaningful story, I recommend this read aloud for all ages.
We March, by Shane W. Evans
If you’re looking for a short and simple book that will introduce the civil rights march to young readers, this is it. With just a couple of words on each page and bold illustrations, it will introduce young listeners to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Such a great conversation starter!
A Sweet Smell of Roses, by Angela Johnson
This gentle book honors the children who participated in the civil rights marches of the 1960’s. I love the powerful charcoal images in this thought-provoking story. Great for young listeners!
Sit-In, by Andrea Davis Pinkney
The author tells the story of the four young black men who took a stand against segregation by sitting down at the whites-only lunch counter in Woolworth’s. We enjoyed the poetic prose and cooking metaphors in this stunning portrait. For older listeners.
My Brother Martin, by Christine Farris
I highly recommend this beautifully-told memoir by the sister of Martin Luther King, Jr. Young listeners will love the stories from King’s childhood and be inspired by his determination to speak out against hatred and racism.
Martin’s Big Words, by Doreen Rappaport
With its collage style illustrations and very simple story line, this book is an excellent introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr. I love how it weaves his quotes throughout the story of the civil rights movement. An excellent book!
I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer
In Meltzer’s signature style, he talks directly to children in this engaging first-person biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like all of Meltzer’s books, the illustrations are unique: King is illustrated as a miniature version of his adult self on every page, even as a young child. This may be confusing to preschoolers who wonder why a little boy has a mustache. If this bothers you, I think the book is good enough to look past it!
The Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson
This is the true story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a nine-year-old girl whose family was close friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. Hendricks marched in the Birmingham Children’s March of 1963 and was the youngest of the children jailed in juvenile hall. The story is easy to read and listen to, and the illustrations are wonderful.
Child of the Civil Rights Movement, by Paula Young Shelton & Raul Colon
This is a fantastic book written by the youngest daughter of Andrew Young. She tells the story of her parents moving from their home in the North back to the segregated South – to become leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.
I loved this rare, behind-the-scenes look at how Young, King, Abernathy, and other civil rights leaders planned and marched to Montgomery.
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Thank you for your recommended books! Thank you also for all your great resources! I have used so many in my classroom! I particularly like all the games & center activities!
You’re very welcome, Julie!
I bought a book named Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Robin Hill School) for my 5-years-old son some days before. It is a very good one if you are trying to explain to your kids in a simple way how there are people that can make a change and what is the meaning of a dream. My son love it and ask to take it to his kindergarten
Thanks so much for that recommendation, Mary!