Five Books for Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, often referred to as MLK Day, is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. This year the holiday will be recognized on Monday, January 16th, 2017. This special day celebrates the life and civil rights work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You can learn more about his life by visiting The King Center’s website. President Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983. In 1994, the holiday was officially recognized as a National Day of Service where volunteers across the country work together to make a difference in their communities.

A great way to celebrate this national holiday at home is to share a book or two with your family about the life of Dr. King. The titles below are wonderful children’s books, including both fiction and nonfiction, that are perfect for a variety of ages. You’ll find books about  Dr. King himself, as well as books about others who were influential in the Civil Rights Movement in America, and books that capture the spirit of this day.

Newly published this month, Martin’s Dream Day by Kitty Kelley gives readers a look at the 1963 March on Washington through Stanley Tretick’s stellar photographs. Children 6 and up will enjoy this nonfiction book.

Young Ruby Bridges became the first African-American student to attend the all-white William Frantz Public School in Louisiana on November 14, 1960. At only six years old she was surrounded by federal marshals on her way to school. Children ages 9-12 can read about her experiences from her own point of view in this autobiography, entitled Through My Eyes by Bridges.

Rosa written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier is a beautiful biography about Rosa Parks. This title is a Caldecott honor book, and 2006 Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustrators winner. Parks, “The Mother of the Modern-day Civil Rights Movement”, is an important historical figure and this is a great introduction for young readers.

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco is a lovely fictional story about family bonds and cultural history. This moving story depicts African American and Russian Jewish cultures and the importance of togetherness. Though not explicitly about the Civil Rights Movement, this is a touching story that I believe captures the spirit of a shared humanity across race and culture.


Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton tells the story of the birth of the Civil Rights Movement through the her eyes as a child. She is the daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, who worked with Dr. King, and she brings a child’s perspective to this important chapter in our history. This is another good choice for readers ages 6 and up.

A spectacular resource for more books that celebrate African American culture is the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Book Awards. These are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in addition to his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

Enjoy these titles and be sure to stop in and ask a Children’s Librarian for recommendations if you are itching for more.

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2 Responses to Five Books for Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

  1. Donna says:

    Great book recommendations for Martin Luther King Day!


  2. atmackin says:

    Great resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and February’s Black History Month!


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