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It’s never too early to teach children about civil rights, race, and equality, and Martin Luther King Day, which falls on January 17, is the perfect opportunity to do that.
The best way to start a conversation with young children? Buy books that honor the life of the iconic minister who led the civil rights movement before his death in 1968 and have age-appropriate conversations about race and equality with your kids. You’ll be comforted to know that children, even those in preschool, can understand such concepts — according to the American Psychological Association, although most parents believe that children should be at least five years old before discussing racism, it’s possible that preschoolers have already developed their own beliefs about the topic.
“Children are capable of thinking about all sorts of complex topics at a very young age,” study author Dr. Jessica Sullivan, an associate professor in the psychology department of Skidmore College, told the organization. “Even if adults don’t talk to kids about race, children will work to make sense of their world and will come up with their own ideas, which may be inaccurate or detrimental.”
Many American kids learn about Martin Luther King Jr. through a school lesson on his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. and subsequently enjoy a day off from school, however racism should be an ongoing topic of conversation at home, not just once a year. And the true purpose of MLK Day to contribute acts of service and educate oneself on how to be anti-racist.
Fortunately, many children’s book authors and illustrators have masterfully found ways to balance age-appropriateness with honesty; you just have to know where to look.
One source for parents looking for fantastic stories is Goodreads, the social networking site for book lovers where readers can learn what others have already enjoyed and why. In honor of the upcoming MLK Day, we asked Goodreads’ editors to share with us some of the most popular books on the website about Dr. King and civil rights (and there are a few recommendations from us!)
None of these books offer simple, feel-good stories. Instead, they all are wonderful jumping-off points for parents and children to talk and learn together on MLK Day — and throughout the year.
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