Teaching Young Children About Dr. King

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a good time for all parents to consider ways to share the legacy of Dr. King with their children and the impact that he had in shaping American history.

We do something each year to celebrate and learn about Dr. King.  One of the most effective lessons has been by reading a children’s book about Dr. King and then following up with doing some additional research online.  There is a wealth of educational information available on YouTube. Below I share one of our favorite lessons.

Teaching Children About Dr. Martin Luther King With Children 

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an excellent book to teach young children about Dr. King. The book does an excellent job in portraying the philosophy and teachings of Dr. King in a way suitable for young children. Before you go into the book, consider the following:

  • First, get an idea about what your children already know about Dr. King. Since my children range from 5th to 1st grade, this was important. Also, I knew they learned about him in school, so this was a good way for me to emphasize or expand upon what they may have already learned.
  • Next, ask some specific questions.  I asked everyone to share what they thought Dr. King did for Americans and what he taught us. My six-year-old shared that, “Dr. King, taught us to love people!” My seven-year-old remarked that “he taught us to do unto others as you want done unto you.” And my oldest responded with a text book answer, “ Dr. King died for rights of African-Americans.”
  • Read Martin’s Big Words, or any children’s book about Dr. King, with the kids. As you read the book and review the pictures, discuss what your children think life was like for African-American’s during the 60s.
  • Discuss what happened when schools and churches were segregated and the role that Rosa Parks had in the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. King. Explain things that are easy and simple enough for your kids to understand and give examples of what segregation is, such as not letting boys play with girls.
  • Listen to Dr. King’s speech in his own words.  You can easily find audio clips of Dr. King on the internet.  The entire speech may not be easily understood by young kids but the idea is to put a voice to the historical speech that many children read and learn about.  During the speech, you may notice that the light bulbs start to really turn on for the children as they begin to really understand what Dr. King did for our country.
  • You can wrap with everyone saying why they are thankful for Dr. King.  Why is life in America better for everyone?  Share your idea first and allow the children to follow.


Image credit: DoreenRappaport.com