Martin Luther King, Jr. is an iconic American hero and civil rights leader who helped bring social and political changes to America, which is one of the reasons we honor King and his legacy every year on the third Monday in January. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides parents and caregivers with an excellent opportunity to encourage children to accept and understand differences between people and cultures.
Facts to Share with Kids
We found a great article that discusses King’s life and accomplishments on The History Channel website. Here are a few facts from the article you can share with your kids on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a federal holiday in 1986.
- King believed in peaceful protest and was an advocate of nonviolence.
- He played a critical role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington, which were major events that influenced the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the most memorable and influential speeches of all time.
- King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his efforts in the civil rights movement.
You can also talk with older children about how King was fatally shot in 1968 while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis. If younger children ask about what happened to King, keep your responses simple and relatively easy for young kids to understand.
Three Ways to Encourage Equality and Acceptance
Peace, nonviolence, equality, and acceptance were all important principles and concepts of the civil rights movement and King’s own legacy. All of these principles and concepts are still important for children to learn due to the diversity in people and culture they encounter every day. Here are three ways you can encourage your children to be open-minded, understanding, and accepting of people’s differences:
1. Teach children about diversity, the history of the civil rights movement, and Martin Luther King, Jr. by reading books about those topics and asking them their opinion about what they read. All the Colors We Are, for example, gives children a scientific explanation of how our skin color is determined by a variety of factors while also addressing the myths and stereotypes that people often associate with a person’s skin color. Children can learn about the history of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with the Holiday Book Series, and our At Home with Diversity Book Set can help children further their understanding of differences.
2. Reinforce what children learn by reading and discussing books with fun educational activities, such as puzzles, word searches, and crossword puzzles. The Our Friends Floor Puzzle and Comprehension-Boosting Crosswords: Famous Americans are both excellent examples of activities that can help children learn more about diversity and why we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
3. Encourage children to express and share the differences they see in the world with multicultural art activities. Children can draw and create posters and pictures, for example, of the diversity they see in their own homes and communities. These types of activities will help children further explore and understand biological and cultural differences, which will ultimately help further King’s vision of equality and acceptance.