“Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Introducing my students to the story of Dr. King this week has brought on my yearly reminder that I am really in awe of this interesting and charismatic man. I struggle to get through any of my read alouds without choking up.
My absolute favorite picture book about Martin Luther King is called Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, with beautiful illustrations by Bryan Collier. The book tells Dr. King’s story from childhood to the end of his life by highlighting famous quotations. It is a gorgeous and deep book that discusses the reality of the ugliness of the Civil Rights movement while also displaying the hope and reliance on love that Dr. King used to inspire people.
I will warn that this book says out right that Dr. King was killed. Some people feel that this is too much for kindergarten students to handle, but I feel like the conversations that follow are usually rich and allow me to impart some of the seriousness of death in a world where children of 4 and 5 routinely kill people on video games dozens of times a day. “Dr. King was very missed. People cried because he was important to them and they wanted him to be with them. We still talk about him today because his words are so important.”
I have to admit that if I didn’t have the responsibility of explaining this to my students, I would be hard pressed to ruminate on the story of Martin Luther King every January 15th. I’m so glad for the reminder. I’m so grateful to Dr. King. I’ll never be able to tell his story without crying a little, but that sparks another important conversation for my students. “Sometimes, people cry because they are happy and they are proud.”