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MLK Day gives us an opportunity to deliver an important message to our children. They are our future leaders of the world and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they took Dr. King’s messages to heart as a society that is experiencing more publicized racial injustice? To know that the wait and see approach does not work and that it takes active change and problem-solving? To develop empathy for someone who is different than or similar to who they are? If you said yes to any of the above, this newsletter is for you! Below, we’ve included answers to all of your wh- questions about MLK Day in fairly kid friend terms, as well as some awesome supplemental resources.
Dr. King was born in 1929. He was a minister for a church. He is known for being a hero who peacefully protested for black Americans to be treated the same as white Americans. He preached compassion, fairness, and non-violence. He wanted people to stop separating white/black Americans in the 50s and 60s. 
“In his own life’s example, he symbolized what was right about America, what was noblest and best, what human beings have pursued since the beginning of history,” Reagan said. “He loved unconditionally. He was in constant pursuit of truth, and when he discovered it, he embraced it. His nonviolent campaigns brought about redemption, reconciliation, and justice. He taught us that only peaceful means can bring about peaceful ends, that our goal was to create a loving community.” Snippet from President Reagan’s speech in the Rose Garden as he proclaimed MLK Day a national holiday :
King was such a monumental change-maker that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his efforts to usher in civil rights for all. 
“Although MLK Day was signed into law until 15 years after King’s death. However, legislation to honor his legacy was introduced shortly after his assassination and continued for years to come. On August 2, 1983, the House approved legislation, thus officially establishing MLK Day. The day observes King’s contributions to the civil rights movement and went into effect in 1986.” 
MLK Day is the third Monday in January, near Dr. King’s birthday (January 15). MLK did most of his work for the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s. 
There simply isn’t one answer for “where.” We’ve listed some of the most remarkable locations below:
- Montgomery Bus Boycott: After the arrest of Rosa Parks, King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. It lasted over a year and led to the US Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation in public transportation was unconstitutional. 
- Birmingham Campaign: In the 60s, Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the most segregated cities (people were separated based on their skin color). This protest aimed to end Jim Crow Laws, which were laws that allowed such segregation. King was sent to jail for a period of time for protesting but broke down segregation barriers in businesses, restaurants, and other public places. 
- March on Washington: 1963, King organized a march to bring awareness to the civil rights movement. It was a changing point in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is where he gave his famous, “I have a Dream,” speech. 
MLK Day honors the life and work of MLK and encourages Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. For the little ones you may focus on explaining how everyone can help make a difference in the world through kindness and respect, just like King did. 
This is also a great time to reflect with your child about why MLK’s legacy is still applicable today. Compare the March of Washington in 1963 to the Black Lives Matter Marches of Washington in recent years. What are some things that have gotten better since MLK’s protests? What still needs to change for us to reach fairness/equality? Remind them that while there were undeniable changes in the legislature after the Civil Rights Act, systemic racism still exists. That is why, years later, we must learn from MLK’s work in hopes that peaceful protests and nonviolence help ignite the change our country deserves. 
Additional Resources to teach your children about MLK Day:
- Classroom Resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day | NEA
- How to teach kids the meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – Kids | Britannica Kids | Homework Help
- A guide to resources for parents on Martin Luther King Jr. Day – The Washington Post
- How silence can breed prejudice: A child development professor explains how and why to talk to kids about race
- Teaching Young Children About Race: A Guide for Parents and Teachers
- We need to deal with our discomfort and talk to our kids about racism
- Why I teach my 2-year-old about race
- Talking to Taye Diggs about race and parenting
Another way to teach your children about MLK Day is through books, arts/crafts, and videos. Here are our favorites below!
- Voice to the Voiceless Gallery — Google Arts & Culture
- Voice to the Voiceless: Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection Archives – National Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day classroom resources – PBS NewsHour Classroom
- “I Am Martin Luther King Jr.” from the Ordinary People Change the World series, for ages 5-8
- “I Have a Dream” book and audio CD with a recording of the speech. The book pairs King’s speech with illustrations, for ages 5 and up.
- “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” for ages 5-9
- “My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr.,” part of the My First Biography series, for ages 4-8
- “The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.,” for ages 2-5
- Middle Schoolers & High Schoolers: “Martin Rising: Requiem for a King” (Scholastic, ages 13 and up) and “Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin” (Scholastic, ages 12 and up).
- How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books and Resources That Can Help, from Brightly, a book recommendation website with Penguin Random House.
- 26 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism & Resistance from the Conscious Kid Library
- MLK Day Crafts
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