Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: A Lesson for Martin Luther King, Jr.


A Lesson for Martin Luther King, Jr, written by Denise Lewis Patrick and illustrated by Rodney S. Pate tells the story of young Martin as a second grader.  Martin returns home from his first day of school very excited.  He and his best friend Bobby were going to different schools and he wanted to share his excitement with him.  Throughout this short book, Martin is disappointed that Bobby doesn’t have time to play with him anymore.  Bobby finally explains to Martin that they can’t play anymore because Martin is colored and Bobby is white.  “Papa says colored and white can’t mix.”  Martin doesn’t understand and after his father tries to explain to him, Martin asks “Can’t I change the rules?  Can’t I change people’s minds?”  Martin’s father smiles and he answers “yes, you can.” The book ends with “I will try, Daddy,” Martin said.  “I will try.”

The last page includes a timeline of his life.

Curriculum Connections:

This book could be used to  introduce Martin Luther King, Jr to young students.  It could be used to explain to young students why we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr day (Va SOL K.1) as well as to help explain to students the contributions that he made that helped to improve the lives of other Americans (Va SOL 2.11 and 3.11 b)

Additional Resources:

Freedom, Freedom, Let It Ring is an easy song for your students to learn and is sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

Writing Prompts for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day lists several ideas to get your students writing.

Martin Luther King, Jr: A Clothesline Timeline  is a fun lesson plan and activity used to depict the events in the life of MLK, Jr.

General Information:

Book: A Lesson for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Author: Denise Lewis Patrick
Illustrator: Rodney S. Pate
Publisher: Alladdin Paperbacks
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 31
Grade Rabge: K-3
ISBN: 9780689853982

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