On January 18th, many businesses and schools will be closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Given the past year that we just experienced, it’s more important than ever to teach your child about this holiday.
Here are some basic facts and resources available to help you teach your child about the significance of Martin Luther King Day.
Who is Martin Luther King Jr.?
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929, and he made it his life's work to bring compassion, fairness and racial equality to all throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He fought against segregation in the South, through nonviolent marches and peaceful protests.
What are his most notable achievements?
- Montgomery Bus Boycott: This fight ultimately led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that racial segregation in public transportation was unconstitutional.
- March on Washington: Over 200,000 people joined King in the March on Washington in 1963, where he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. This culminated in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that abolished discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or nationality.
- Birmingham Campaign: These were a number of protests led by MLK, with the goal of ending Jim Crow Laws, which enforced racial segregation in public places. While it was a struggle, King was successful in breaking down segregation barriers in businesses, restaurants and other public establishments within Birmingham.
- Nobel Peace Prize: In 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel peace prize for all of his efforts.
What is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
President Reagan signed into law in November 1983, that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was to be a national holiday that falls around the same time as Kings birthday on the 3rd Monday of January every year.
Ways to teach children about MLK
Here are a couple of ways you can teach your younger child about Martin Luther King Jr.
- Read books about Martin Luther King Jr.: Start with books, like “My Brother Martin” by Christine King Farris or "I Am Brave: A Little Book about Martin Luther King, Jr." by Brad Meltzer, that are for children as young as 2 years old. Another great resource is the Scholastic MLK picture book roundup, and their list of MLK books for early readers or their MLK books for ages 10 and up.
- Watch a film on MLK: “Selma” and “I’m not your Negro” are two good films to watch, however make sure to check film ratings and reviews to ensure they're appropriate for your child.
- Discuss Dreams: Drawing inspiration from King’s “I have a dream” speech, ask your child about their hopes and dreams. Discuss how they can make an impact on the world. Have them write them down and hang them somewhere in your home so they serve as inspiration throughout the year.
- Volunteer: Show the importance of helping others and donating your time and effort, by volunteering. Go to NationalService.gov to find a volunteering opportunity appropriate for your child's age.
- Art projects: Have children draw around their hands on paper and cut them out. Overlap each hand to form a circle and glue them down to a sheet of paper to show that no matter how different we look on the outside, we are all the same on the inside. This project helps show unity and respect.
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