Martin Luther King Jr. Day Primer
Learn about this special holiday in January with our guide to Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day honors the famous American civil rights leader who dedicated his life to achieving equality for people of all colors. Although few kids would question a day off from school, some may wonder why there is an entire day devoted to one man. Dr. King's message of peace and justice touched many Americans. The national holiday that remembers him is a time to learn about history and reflect on some valuable messages that are still meaningful today.
Get The Facts
When: The third Monday in January, near Dr. King's birthday on January 15th
First Year as a National Holiday: 1983; it took 15 years to pass through congress
President Who Made the Day a National Holiday: Ronald Reagan
Ways to Learn and Remember:
Read a Book
So many great stories have been written to teach about Dr. King and the civil rights movement. Read one of our favorites to start the conversation.
- Martin's Big Words, by Doreen Rappaport
- Freedom Summer, by Deborah Wiles
- Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges
After teaching your children about Martin Luther King Jr., ask them these open-ended questions to facilitate a deeper understanding.
- What was so unique notable about the way Dr. King encouraged people to take a stand?
- What do you think the world would be like if Martin Luther King Jr. had not stood up for civil rights or helped to organize others?
Or ask them to write a letter to his children. Dr. King and his wife had four children who were young when he was assassinated in 1968.
Yolanda King- born in 1955 (now deceased)
Martin Luther King III- born in 1957
Dexter King- born in 1961
Bernice King- born in 1963
Encourage your children to explain why the world is a better place because of Dr. King, or why they're glad that Dr. King had the courage to stand up for such an important cause. They can even express their condolences or share their own experiences.
Choose a Cause and Give Back:
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, spoke, marched, and stood up for what he believed in. Remind kids that Dr. King worked hard and was willing to give of himself to benefit a cause. Choose a cause that interests your kids and give back together.
Some of our favorites:
If your kids are serious animal lovers and want to protect their furry friends, consider contacting your local ASPCA to lend a hand at a shelter.
If your kids cherish their bedtime story, try volunteering for the Pajama Program, which helps give pj's and books to kids in need.
Look for local volunteer opportunities or check out the national charities that earned a seal from the Better Business Bureau