Monday, January 20, marks the 34th year in which Americans celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. As you talk with your children or students about Dr. King, take a minute to think about what you would like your students to learn from him.
While Dr. King lived “long ago”, as children might see it, his life’s work and accomplishments still resonate today. Explore with children the connections that they can make to their lives. For example, explore concepts such as nonviolence, protest, and equality. Imagine how your children can put Dr. King’s messages into action.
Below are a few ideas that might spark activities in the home or classroom.
Discuss bullying, both face-to-face and cyber. Work together to consider how to deal with bullying and issues of inequality in a peaceful way.
Take inspiration from how Dr. King was able to spark change through the power of his words. Is there something around your school or community that children feel should be fixed or changed? Have children brainstorm how they can peacefully get their voices heard.
Focus on collaboration. While Dr. King played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement, he did not work alone. For example, to make their voices heard and to protest unfair treatment or laws, people would often march peacefully. These marches required a lot of people to work together. Discuss with children how people can work together to speak out against treatment or laws that might be unfair.
Connect to the present. People around the world are using the power of protest and non-violent resistance. Share that these tactics are not just a thing of the past, but a powerful approach to change. For example, consider talking about how over 785,000 people around the world marched in 2015’s Global Climate March to show their support for preventing climate change.
For more inspiration or information about Dr. King’s life, a few good kid-friendly titles include:
Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris
By Lily Jones, former kindergarten & first grade teacher, instructional coach, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. Throughout everything she does, Lily hopes to make learning fun for both teachers and students.