You’ve seen him pop up in Facebook quotes and in history books, but what was the man behind some of the most influential changes in the civil rights movement all about? Learning more about Martin Luther King Jr. — and teaching your kids what you learn — can make the upcoming holiday even more meaningful and have an impact on them day in and day out.
Let’s put it this way: If you don’t know what Martin Luther King Jr. Day is all about, it’s going to be hard to teach your kids to appreciate this national holiday and honor Dr. King all year-round.
Here are a few important takeaways behind the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday in January:
When your kids ask what they’re doing home on a Monday they would have normally spent at school, remind them of this: MLK Day gives us a day to reflect on the monumental changes one man set in motion.
Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equal rights amongst black and white citizens in the 1950s and 1960s. These rights included the right to work and make an honest living, the right to vote, the right to use public places and the right to receive a good education.
If you’re looking for specifics that can feed into an afternoon of Googling with the kids, Illinois State University’s Vidette Online lists some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s top civil rights achievements as his 1963 March on Washington; the Montgomery Bus Boycott on the same day of Rosa Parks’ arrest; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where Dr. King served as the first president; and his Nobel Peace Prize award in 1964.
Asking your children their dream is not the only thing you can do to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If you want your kids to really take away something from MLK Day this year, it helps to understand how children learn. As UNICEF pointed out way back in 1994, in an article published by the Bureau of Elementary Education, Department of Education, Culture, and Sports of the Philippines, kids learn best through experiences. To explain an important holiday like Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a way that children can understand, it helps to put some action to the lesson that will involve all of a child’s senses.
Get your kids involved in paying respect to the man who fought for equality with these inspiring hands-on activities:
As Teaching Tolerance points out, these positive lessons and discussions can have a monumental impact in instilling tolerance in children of all ages and races. And after wrapping up a great holiday of celebrating inclusion and diversity with your kids, don’t let it stop there — as Dr. King showed us more than 50 years ago, life is full of teachable moments you can use to continue to show your kids that all people deserve our care and respect.
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