15 Books and Movies to Celebrate MLK Day
Last year the kids and I did an entire unit on the Civil Rights Movement. I was amazed at the number of children's books and movies that help kids explore this turbulent time in our nation's history. I thought I would share some of our favorite books and movies from last year:
We started our unit with Now Let Me Fly, The Story of a Slave Family. This story covers a slave family from the time a little girls was kidnapped from her African village, chained, brought across to America, sold at market ... through to when her children we sold or escaped from bondage.
If your kids are older, you could show them the powerful miniseries the Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which follows the life of a former slave girl as she and her family endured Reconstruction and prejudice ... up through to the Civil Rights Movement. If you have younger children or sensitive kids, there is a lynching scene I recommend that you skip, but otherwise, this film is wonderful. It won nine Emmy awards. My kids loved it!
There are several children's books that show how difficult and devastating segregation was. In Ruth and the Green Book one family encounters "whites only" restaurants, hotels and gas stations as the family travels from Chicago to Alabama. In The Other Side, two girls, one black and one white, find a way to be friend each other despite the fence that divides blacks from whites.
Delving into the events of the Civil Rights Movement itself, we found there are a lot of books about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. The kids were really drawn in by the books and movie we watched about Ruby Bridges. We read The Story of Ruby Bridges and Through My Eyes, which both share the story of a young girl in New Orleans who is the first to integrate the all white elementary school. The kids loved Disney's Ruby Bridges! (This movie is also available on Amazon Prime.)
We also learned about the Greensboro Sit-ins. My kids liked Freedom on the Menu and Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down. After reading both of these books,the kids understood what Sit-ins were and why they were so effective. We talked a lot about passive resistance and tied this to what they had learned about Gandhi and the nonviolent protest in India.
The final book I would recommend, is one that helps kids explore the issue of prejudice and fairness -- The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss! Our family had some pretty amazing discussions about how "unfair" it was to be judged just by appearances. It is a society of haves and have-nots (having a star or not) This classic story helps open the door for a lot of discussion ... how it feels to be left out, stereotypes, and why it's important to treat everyone fairly.