This week all grades are hearing books about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in recognition of the Martin Luther King Day holiday on the coming Monday.
If your children ask, "Why are we off school Monday?" it's an opportunity to talk with them about the significance of the holiday. It's pretty common that people feel a little uneasy talking with children about race--it's a complex topic. Many children are surprised and saddened to learn about the history of segregation in this country. Not all of us have committed to memory all the dates, names, and events of the civil rights movement. It can feel like talking about racism somehow dignifies it. Most experts agree, however, that talking about racism with children is important and meaningful.
If you want to begin a conversation on the topic of civil justice with your child, one starting place would be to ask them about the book they heard this week in library. Many classes will also watch one of the BrainPOP videos on the Rev. Martin Luther King, so you can ask your child about that. If we didn't watch it with your child's class, you can watch it at home or any of the other videos in BrainPOP's section on African American history. (Your teacher or I can give you the BrainPOP login information, if you need it.) The regular BrainPOP videos are pretty substantial, so they are recommended for grades 3 and up. There are videos for younger students too, in BrainPOP Jr. If you'd like suggestions on how to direct the conversation, an internet search on the topic of "talking with children about racism" returns many results, including ideas from Parents magazine, CNN, the New York Times, and organizations focused on education or on civil rights.
Grades 4 and 5 are hearing a great book about the the Greensboro, N.C., sit-ins at the Woolworth's lunch counters, so that book is really more about the civil rights movement in general. Below are a couple of photos from the beginning of that effective, nonviolent protest.
Also, in case you or your students have not heard it lately, below is a portion of the "I have a dream" speech (as always, be very careful about sidebars and comments on YouTube, as there is often material that is not suitable for children):
Second photo, left to right: Joseph A. McNeil, Franklin E. McCain, William Smith, Clarence Henderson