Today, our nation remembers a man who worked tirelessly to bring our country’s people together across racial lines, imagining a society in which people would “not be judged by the color of their skin.” Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I’m happy to feature a new picture book that helps parents and teachers share his message.
What Was Your Dream, Dr. King? And Other Questions about Martin Luther King Jr. by Mary Kay Carson is part of Sterling Children’s Books “Good Question!” series, and it provides children with answers to some questions they may have about a really complicated and challenging period of our country’s history. Starting off with the title question, this informative picture book introduces Dr. King on the National Mall in Washington, DC, speaking to the crowd of 200,000+ spilling out in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Emphasizing his message of unity and peace, the book then explores both Dr. King’s personal history and the history of African-Americans. Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement may not be fun things to discuss with our children, but regardless of one’s race, these remain important topics for young people to learn about.
Twenty questions are explored in these pages, presenting challenging topics like the Ku Klux Klan, police brutality in response to civil disobedience and protests, and the assassination of Dr. King. Inspiration can be found in Dr. King’s message along with mentions of Rosa Parks as part of the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott, and the election of our country’s first African-American president, Barack Obama. The information is presented in a brief and direct manner, and this is most certainly a book that is meant to be discussed between a caring adult and a child reading together. I would recommend this book for children in first grade and up.
My family lives in a very diverse community, so my children have grown up surrounded by people of various races and ethnicities. Back in the fall, I remember having a conversation with my six year old daughter about why I felt it was so important to go stand in line and vote. When I told her that some people didn’t always have this right, she stared at me in shock. As I briefly explained about Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement, my usually very talkative child was at a loss for words. Finally, she simply said, “Why would some people say people with brown skin couldn’t vote?” Her innocent bewilderment was heartwarming, and I realized that it was a good time to start educating her more directly about our country’s history.
Since then, I’ve been looking for new books that would help, and I’m nothing but pleased with What Was Your Dream, Dr. King? And Other Questions about Martin Luther King Jr. It deftly informs young readers on serious and uncomfortable topics, but does it with a tone of respect and ultimate hope. I’ll leave you with the book’s last question:
Has Dr. King’s dream come true?
The America that Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in is different today. White and black children go to school together. Segregation is illegal. It is a crime to turn someone down for a job because of race. An African American man, Barack Obama, became president in 2008. Our nation has come a long way.
Not all people everywhere are always treated fairly, however. The world in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech hasn’t come completely true. There is still prejudice, poverty, and war. He knew it would take time and not be easy. But Martin Luther King Jr. believed the world could– and would– become a better place. All that is needed is for us to believe in his dream, too.
Dawn believes in the power of books to entertain and educate children. She fills her days with teaching preschool, raising three kids, and trying to blog every once in a while at my thoughts exactly.