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Our Favorite Children’s Books for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

By Helen Malkin

On Monday, January 16, 2023, America will observe a nationally recognized holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  This special day celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., an influential American civil rights leader. Born in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up to become a civil rights leader whose philosophy and practice of nonviolent civil disobedience helped African Americans win many battles for equal rights.  As we look to educate our kids of all ages on the significance of this holiday, BCB rounded up some of our favorite books about Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, other heroes like him, and the ongoing important significance of this day.  These books are for readers of all ages, starting with our babies and going up to our fifth graders.  

I Have a Dream (Book & CD) by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  – Suggested ages 3+ years old

Experience history with this picture book of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic speech, including an audio CD.  This Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book will inspire young readers!  The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation’s past.


Making a Difference:  An Inspirational Book About Kids Changing the World!  (Young Change Makers) by Stacy C. Bauer – Suggested ages 7 – 11 years old

Making a Difference is the first book in the inspirational nonfiction children’s book series Young Change Makers. It is filled with stories of kids who are making the world a better place by following their hearts and chasing their dreams. Whether planting a billion trees, bringing joy to others through music, fundraising for sick children or starting an inclusive dance team, these determined youth are using their talents to do amazing things!


Martin Luther King, Jr.  by Mary Nhin – Suggested ages 3+ years old

This new Mini Movers and Shakers children’s book teaches young kids about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts to advance civil rights despite overwhelming obstacles.  Find out what happens in this kid’s book about achieving goals with nonviolence.


My Little Golden Book About Martin Luther King Jr. by Bonnie Bader – Suggested ages 2 – 7 years old

This Little Golden Book captures the essence of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the littlest readers. They’ll learn how his childhood in segregated Atlanta—and in his father’s church—shaped the future civil rights leader. And they’ll gain a clear understanding of the way he became an eloquent, powerful voice for African Americans.


I am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer – Suggested ages 5 – 7 years old

This friendly, fun biography series inspired the PBS Kids TV show Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. One great role model at a time, these books encourage kids to dream big.


I am Brave: A Little Book about Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer – Suggested ages 2 – 5 years old

This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great—the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. In this new board book format, the very youngest readers can learn about one of America’s icons in the series’ signature lively, conversational way. The short text focuses on drawing inspiration from these iconic heroes, and includes an interactive element and factual tidbits that young kids will be able to connect with. This volume tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader.


Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Lisbeth Kaiser – Suggested ages 2 – 4 years old

The #1 New York Times Bestselling Who Was? series expands into the board book space, bringing age-appropriate biographies of influential figures to readers ages 2-4.  The chronology and themes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s meaningful life are presented in a masterfully succinct text, with just a few sentences per page. The fresh, stylized illustrations are sure to captivate young readers and adults alike. With a read-aloud biographical summary in the back, this age-appropriate introduction honors and shares the life and work of one of the most influential civil rights activists of our time.


Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison – Suggested ages Baby – 3 years old

This beautifully illustrated board book  showcases women who changed the world and is the perfect goodnight book to inspire big dreams.  Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler – Suggested ages 5 – 7 years old

Pairing detailed illustrations and an accessible narrative of Dr. King’s life, this book is ideal for a discussion about the history behind the holiday, or an early introduction to the struggle for civil rights in America.  Includes a timeline of important dates.  For almost thirty years, David Adler’s Picture Book Biography series has profiled famous people who changed the world. Colorful, kid-friendly illustrations combine with Adler’s “expert mixtures of facts and personality” (Booklist) to introduce young readers to history.


A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, Suggested ages 7 – 10 years old

Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.  Author Barry Wittenstein teams up with legendary illustrator Jerry Pinkney to tell the story of how, against all odds, Martin found his place to land.


A Lesson for Martin Luther King Jr.: Ready-to-Read Level 2 (Ready-to-Read Childhood of Famous Americans) by Denise Lewis Patrick – Suggested ages 5 – 7 years old

Young Martin Luther King Jr. is having some problems with his best friend, Bobby. First, they are going to different schools this year. Next, Bobby’s dad is not letting his son play with Martin. When Martin learns why, he is confused and hurt–but he learns a lesson that he will never forget.







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