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Age-Appropriate Lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 17, 2022

In this blog, you will learn some recommendations of what key lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr. to teach to young children, and see a book list of children's books about MLK, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.

What lessons from MLK, Jr. should we teach children?

When it comes to young children, teaching involves finding age-appropriate but important aspects of subjects to instill in children. It may seem that the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the journey of Dr. King, Jr. and his work to erase segregation and injustice may be big and complex for little learners.

Martin Luther King, Jr. quote

The fundamental lessons of Dr. King’s legacy, however, are lessons that we can share with young children:

  • treating others with respect, kindness, compassion, and empathy,
  • getting to know and understand one another,
  • reaching out to help and show you care.  

When should we begin teaching about empathy?

It’s never too early to begin teaching and guiding children towards empathy and understanding, not only of their own emotions, experiences, and perspectives, but those of others as well. 

Even when we can’t fully empathize with another person’s experiences, having never gone through them ourselves, we can learn to be open to listening to others’ experiences and let them know that we hear and recognize them.

We may not fully be able to understand, but we can take in new information, listen to different perspectives, learn from others, and direct this new knowledge inwardly to shift how we exist and navigate our world.

This may seem like a lot to ask a small child to digest, but when we make it a part of children’s everyday lives as we model for and guide them in empathy and compassion, it can become one of the most important muscles they build. 

Use storytelling to teach emotional intelligence

Reading stories together about Dr. King’s life and work, opens the doors to understanding and to opportunities for a wonderful discussion of how to honor his legacy by looking to ourselves and the impact we can make on others and on our world - no matter how small that world might be.

Here are some of our favorite books to read and share about Dr. King, Jr. and civil rights:

Age-appropriate children' books about civil rights

Looking for books representing black voices? Check out this list of books representing black voices!

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