This month we celebrate the life of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here are some of our favorite Martin Luther King books and resources for introducing students to one of America’s greatest heroes:
Books for the Classroom
1. Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Grades PreK-5)
Alternating spreads share details from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life story with imagined images of a classroom of children carrying out the principles he championed in present day. This would be an awesome whole-school read aloud with focused conversations at each grade level.
2. My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, illustrated by AG Ford (Grades K-4)
This is a touching biography of Dr. King penned by his son, Marty. While the rest of the world knew him as a powerful leader, at home he was “just Dad.” This relatable tribute shares some meaningful, lesser-known examples of the King family’s activism to promote nonviolence.
3. My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Christine King Farris, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet (Grades K-5)
This is the story of Dr. King’s childhood and rise to civil rights leader as only his sister could tell it — practical jokes and all.
4. I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., illus. by Kadir Nelson (Grades K-5)
Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson’s stunning paintings scaffold students’ understanding of of Dr. King’s most famous speech. The book includes an audio recording for sharing with students as well.
5. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illus. by Bryan Collier (Grades K-5)
This bookshelf staple—which uses Dr. King’s own words paired with moving artwork to tell his life story—never fails to leave students awestruck.
6. Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs (as told by his niece) by Angela Farris Watkins, illustrated by Sally Were Comport (Grades K-5)
This primer on the principles that drove Dr. King’s work is an excellent springboard for conversations about applying his beliefs to our own lives.
7. Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Grades 1-5)
When a young girl hears Dr. King speak at her church, she’s inspired to take action. This moving portrayal of the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade offers students a unique perspective on children’s involvement in the civil rights movement.
8. Enough! 20 Protestors Who Changed America by Emily Easton, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (Grades K-5)
Written by a Parkland shooting survivor, this diverse list of influential activists puts Dr. King’s legacy in a larger context. Plan for multiple readings so students can make use of the informative back matter to appreciate the full text.
9. I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Grades 2-5)
Don’t be fooled by the comic book style of this series — the text packs a lot of information key events in Dr. King’s life and work. Use it alongside some of the more artful titles.
10. Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader, Illustrated by Nancy Harrison (Grades 2-5)
Kids are drawn to this reliably engaging biography series. Clearly written text with ample illustrations helps students understand how Dr. King’s work came to be, and how it shaped history.
11. Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Grades 6 and up)
This unique anthology chronicles the winter and spring of 1968, leading up to Dr. King’s assassination. Extensive back matter builds background knowledge for appreciating the arc of events depicted. This is an exceptional resource for framing meaningful discussions in middle and high school classrooms. Scholastic provides an exceptional discussion guide that includes additional reflections from the author and illustrator.
12. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Grades 9 and up)
This intensely gripping novel stars Justyce, a high-achieving African American student whose life takes an unforgettable turn as a result of racial profiling. He turns to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King to make sense of his experiences.
13. A Time to Break Silence: The Essential Works of Martin Luther King, Jr., for Students by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Grades 9 and up)
This helpful volume contains a collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most important writings and speeches, chosen by teachers.
Online Teaching Resources
- History.com: Articles, videos, speeches and audio
- The Seattle Times: Biography, timeline, and a photo gallery
- Read, Write, Think: Classroom activities and lesson plans for all grades
- Stanford University: Teaching resources, documents, online encyclopedia and lesson plans for all grades
- PBS: Lesson plans and resources for grades 7-12
- Scholastic:Lesson plans and resources for grades 3-12
- Corporation for National & Community Service: Video clips about the MLK Day of Service
What are your favorite Martin Luther King books for the classroom? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.