This January every child in school is learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader born on January 15th, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia, who is best known for advancing the civil rights movement and his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. It is information that can be read, memorized, and regurgitated for an exam or a brief moment in their academic year, but what information can you teach your child to make Dr. King’s message relate to them on a level of understanding they can truly comprehend and use to keep his message alive?
If we take a step back and look at not only the big picture of what Martin Luther King Jr. instilled in this country but also the value in his endeavor, something he gave up his life for, we can find subtle ways to show our children in an age-appropriate manner, how to keep his dream alive. Our children experience slight injustices in their tiny world every day. Giving them the knowledge that they have the right to stand up for what they believe is right and wrong in any given situation, can be a powerful message they take with them throughout their entire life.
Here are some inspirational ways to make the most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and help keep his message alive for children of all ages:
For Preschoolers & Kindergarteners: Focus on fairness
Preschoolers are too young to understand the social meaning of race the way adults do, but they do notice the physical difference between them and their peers. Children of this age may not be ready for all the details of civil rights, but they can understand the core message: EVERYONE has the right to be treated the same. We should all treat each other with kindness no matter what our differences look like on the outside. All it takes to recognize kindness in one another is giving a classmate the chance to connect, be kind, and play together.
For Elementary School Children: Focus on courage
Dr. Martin Luther King left a legacy of courage. He dared to challenge deeply rooted social and economic values. He stood up for a cause he believed in, even though he was afraid. Dr. King had a commitment to a higher purpose and made his beliefs known in a nonviolent manner. Children of this age are able to identify the courageous moments they have overcome. Prompt your child to describe an occasion in which they witnessed a situation they felt someone was wronged and identify how they were courageous enough to speak up about it.
For Middle Schoolers: Focus on Perception
It is highly beneficial for children of this age to put themselves in another person’s shoes. They are old enough to realize that inequality DOES exist. They are also old enough to know they can be a part of the shift for the future.
When our children feel provoked to stand up to an injustice they witness, they are carrying on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His life and actions give us a reminder that we must continue to stand up for what is right no matter the task, and no matter what age we are. We can incorporate fairness, courage, & other’s perceptions to sustain the guidance Dr. King gave to us so long ago.
“WE CANNOT WALK ALONE. AND AS WE WALK, WE MUST MAKE THE PLEDGE THAT WE SHALL ALWAYS MARCH AHEAD. WE CANNOT TURN BACK.”– Martin Luther King Jr.