Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and his life by listening to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and reading books that share more facts about Dr. King’s life and his work in Civil Rights.
Do your kids know about Martin Luther King, Jr.?
These books will not just introduce your readers to Dr. King but to his powerful legacy of equal rights for all individuals. Which we haven’t achieved so we must keep striving, learning, and loving each other so we can do better.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Picture Books
The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Johnny Ray Moore, illustrated by Amy Wummer
Simple enough for toddler preschool readers, this book explains some of the injustices Dr. King faced and how he used his anger at how he was treated to make the world better. It does not address how Dr. King died.
I Am Brave by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Introduce the concept of bravery along with the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. who dreamed big — and invites you to dream, too.
Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? Board Book by Lisbeth Kaiser, illustrated by Stanley Chow
Simple text and graphic illustrations give readers the basic gist of King’s life and legacy. Despite the limited sentences on each page, this book is not for babies but could be read with children ages 2 and up.
Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
I love the story’s thread of using big words from Martin’s childhood reading the Bible and listening to his father preach to becoming a minister, studying Gandhi, and becoming one of the most important speakers and activists in the world. The author quotes his speeches to share Martin’s life and beliefs with stunning collage illustrations. Beautiful and accessible.
I Have a Dream Book and CD by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Does anyone actually have a CD player anymore? If not, I would search online for a copy of the speech and play it as you look at the illustrations that illuminate Dr. King’s dream. When my kids were younger, I made them watch the video of the “I Have a Dream” speech every year. I believe so much in this dream and the power of activism but it sometimes feels daunting, doesn’t it? I hope the speech in this book inspires you and your family as it does ours.
I am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
This nonfiction biography series for young readers with cartoon illustrations will give you a chuckle — since it’s he’s a kid with a mustache. We learn how much an experience with a white friend not playing with him because he was black hurt him. We learn how the injustice in the world bothered Martin and that he wanted to do something about it. The book does NOT end with his death but ends on a positive note of standing strong and facing struggles.
Martin Luther King Jr. (Little People, BIG DREAMS) by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Mai Ly Degnan
From the acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series comes a biography with clear writing that helps kids understand what it felt like for Martin to be disallowed to play with a friend because he was black and his friend was white, leading to his work in ministry and activism.
Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
A little girl narrates about the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968 in vignettes about the communities uprising to protest. Dr. King called it the “Poor People’s Campaign”. The narrator compares her dad to King, both dreamers and passionate about equal rights. She also tells about how King died. There’s a lot of text but the writing and word choices are beautiful.
Middle-Grade Books About Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine Platt
Short chapters illustrated with images of Dr. King’s life and other graphics such as timelines, this early nonfiction biography book for kids is well-written and accessible for early elementary readers who want to learn about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.. It gives readers the context for how Dr. King became the Civil Rights leader that he became. Also of note, important vocabulary words are in bold.
Melody: No Ordinary Sound by Denise Lewis Patrick, illustrated by Juliana Kolesova
This isn’t exactly about MLK, Jr. but is a story is set in the 1960s in Detroit, Michigan during the times of the Civil Rights Movement. Melody is excited to sing a solo for her church inspired by the inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When a horrible tragedy happens in the South, Melody feels like she has no voice. How will she overcome the unfairness and unjustness to sing once again?