Whenever I start a unit study in our homeschool, I always start with books related to the subject. Some subjects, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., have so many books written about them that it can be hard to know where to start! Below are short reviews of 13 books about Dr. King for preschoolers to adults.
For young children, a simple read aloud with discussion may teach them all they need to know about Dr. King. As children get older, they can draw pictures or take notes during a read aloud. (There are FREE Martin Luther King Jr. notebooking pages at the end of this post you can download!)
Then, as children enter the upper elementary grades and middle school, they can start to read books on their own and write a written response. (Writing prompts are included with the FREE notebooking pages below.) As students enter high school, deeper research into primary and secondary sources can be encouraged with a narrative or expository essay as the end result.
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Picture Books about Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. can be heavy topics and each parent needs to make a decision as to when to introduce their children to them. I provide some extra information regarding the first few books to help you make an informed decision.
Who Was Martin Luther King Jr. by Lisbeth Kaiser: This board book is part of the Who Was series and contains colorful drawings and short facts about Martin Luther King. A great way to introduce him to our youngest learners!
Happy Birthday Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo: This picture book spans Dr. King’s entire life and covers some of the reasons for the civil rights movement. One to two sentences per picture make it a good early book. Some of the laws that King wanted to change are mentioned alluding to the racism of that time. The book does state he was “shot and killed”, but one could change that to “died” while reading aloud, if desired.
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III: This is a wonderful book told from the perspective of growing up with Dr. King as a father. The drawings are especially nice. One to two paragraphs of text per picture makes this a good book for children who can sit a little longer. Racism is mentioned, especially in the context of ending school segregation. Some of the violence the marchers faced is shared as well. But, the main focus of the book is a son’s view of his father’s life. Details of King’s death are not shared.
I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: This beautifully illustrated book includes Dr. King’s own words as spoken in his speech given in Washington on August 28, 1963. It also includes a CD with an official recording of the speech. If you want to introduce young children to Dr. King, but are not ready to discuss racism and how he died, yet, this is the perfect way to do so!
Independent Readers for Early Elementary School
Martin Luther King Jr. by Will Mara, part of the Rookie Biographies series: This a good book for children learning how to independently read non-fiction books. It has larger font, lots of historical information and photos, a timeline and a glossary. Written for approximately 2nd grade.
I am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer: This picture book, told from the perspective of Dr. King, combines a more traditional memoir with a graphic novel. If your child is drawn to graphic novels, this could be a great choice. But, it can also be confusing for some children to know what order to read the text in. Written for approximately 2nd grade.
Martin Luther King Jr. by Kitson Jazynka, part of the National Geographic Kids series: This series of books contains fact and photos broken up into short chapters. There is also a glossary, timeline and a quiz at the end. It covers Dr. King’s entire life and is appropriate for 2nd-3rd grade.
Books for Upper Elementary School
Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader, part of the Who Was…series: This is by far our favorite series of books and once again they do a great job sharing Dr. King’s life. The 100 pages covers his entire life with sidebars about Jim Crow laws, Gandhi, who was an inspiration to Dr. King, Brown vs. Board of Education, Rosa Parks, and many other topics and people!
What Was the March on Washington by Kathleen Krull, part of the Who Was…series: This book provides an in-depth study of the March on Washington if you would like to spend more time on that event in Dr. King’s life. Once again, as part of the Who Was…series, it is very well done!
Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington by Stephanie Watson, part of the Stories of the Civil Rights Movement: This shorter book of just 4 chapters gives in-depth coverage to the civil rights movement as a whole. It highlights a few primary sources and includes follow-up activities.
Martin Rising, Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney: This 128 page book is full of original poetry and artful illustrations that trace Dr. King’s life from birth through his legacy. If you like to study poetry, this would make a great book to spend time with. (For ideas for studying poetry with elementary children click here.)
Martin Luther King, The Peaceful Warrior by Ed Clayton: This chapter book of 114 pages covers Dr. King’s entire life and contains some nice color drawings. It was originally published in 1965, but has been updated to include his final years.
Books for High School and Adults
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson: This is a 400 page collection of King’s essays, letters, sermons, speeches and other writings during his lifetime. The editor, chosen by Dr, King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, fills in with other historical information so that the book reads as a complete narrative. If one wants to dive deeply into Dr. Kings’ own writings this is the most direct and complete way to do so.
A Time to Break Silence, The Essential Works of Martin Luther King Jr., For Students, Introduction by Walter Dean Myers: This collection of sermons, articles and essays is great if you would like a shorter book (245 pages) of Dr. Kings’s writings. Each one has a short introductory paragraph of where and when the writing appeared with some historical context.
Did we miss a book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that you love? Or did one of the books on this list really stand out to you? Let us know below!!