Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.!

Martin Luther King Jr. was a black civil rights leader, a minister, and an advocate on nonviolence. He was born on January 15, 1929. Although we don't officially celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday until Monday, his real birthday is actually today and I'm going to honor it today, in hopes that you will be able to share these wonderful stories with your children!

Adler, David.
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Holiday House: New York
Ages: 5-10

Genre: Biography
Guided Reading Level: M
Between it's simple, understandable text and watercolor and pencil illustrations, students and children alike will be drawn to this biography of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. The complex life of Martin Luther King Jr. is hard for many children to understand, as they are growing up in a world so different from the very one in which King spent his childhood years. What was most catching about this biography was that Adler really tried to connect the life of today's children to Martin Luther King Jr's own life - describing his childhood interests and how they were impacted by his African-American culture. This will certainly allow for children, perhaps even as young as 5 to understand the text and make connections to their own personal lives.
The biography starts out introducing King as he really was - one of America's greatest leaders and a powerful speaker who's words have lasted a lifetime. After introducing King in this fashion, Adler takes readers back to his birth and early home life. The text quickly takes true form as King first notices the inequalities and injustices that African Americans were facing - two of his best friends would no longer play football with him solely because he was black. Through his growing up years, King faced such challenges daily and this is where his inspiration began. The events leading up to Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination are all touched upon in a kid-friendly way without giving too much graphic detail.

Marzollo, Jean
Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King
Scholastic Inc.: New York

Ages: 4-8
Genre: Biography
Guided Reading Level: L


Another biography and this one really caught my attention! Because of the illustrations I felt as though I weren't really reading a biography... this could be a plus with younger children as they tend to be more interested in something that doesn't look so factual. The story is virtually the same as what you hear in A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr., so I guess the real test would be reading them both to children and seeing which they prefer.

The illustrations reminded me of the Crayola Color Explosion that kids seem to love these days and made me come up with a lesson plan all of my own - Martin Luther King, Jr. is perhaps most known for his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in which he speaks of his dreams for the future. Why not give the kids Crayola Color Explosion products (with the black paper, of course) and ask them them to draw a picture of one of their dreams for the future. I do believe that the pictures would turn out very similar to the illustrations in this text! Then, to bring in a little ELA (English Language Arts), why not ask the children to write about their dream. This might be a mighty cool lesson plan for perhaps 3rd or 4th graders!

Lesson Plans/Activities: