Great Picture Books About the Civil Rights Movement!

Since we are celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday this month, I thought it would be great to highlight picture books that are appropriate for children from toddlers through lower elementary school-aged children.

If you are looking for some wonderfully-illustrated picture books about Martin Luther King, Jr., please take a look at my blog last year called "Picture Books About African Americans."

Following is a list of titles of different events and different people who were very important in the Civil Rights Movement.  The books are appropriate for different ages and I will indicate the target audience for each of the titles.

Picture Books About the Civil Rights Movement

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?, book cover

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Lisbeth Kaiser

A great book for preschoolers, this lovely book covers the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Emphasizing kindness as a major characteristic of Dr. King, children will learn about his background and its impact upon how we approached change using non-violence.

One page covers a part of his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Children will learn exactly why we celebrate his birthday, as a public figure who made a major change to American society!

We Shall Overcome, book cover

We Shall Overcome by Bryan Collier, illustrator

This striking book by Bryan Collier uses colors to distinguish the past from the present.

My first encounter with a Bryan Collier book was one about Barack Obama.  In that book, we learn about President Obama's background and its impact upon his life of public service.  Much like many others on this list, President Obama's unique upbringing created a focus on public service as his life's mission.  Beautifully illustrated with paintings, I remember this book in particular because of the striking artwork.

Like President Obama's book, Collier's striking paintings show the Civil Rights Movement vividly.  Of particular note is how Collier shows children the impact of what happened in the past upon what is happening today.

One of my favorite pages is the one with Rosa Parks sitting on the bus in black and white and the child who is sitting on the bus, painted in color.

This title is great for preschoolers or toddlers, who can easily see the differences!

Let the Children March, book cover

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march through Birmingham Alabama in 1963, he enlisted the assistance of children and teenagers, who wanted to participate in Dr. King's non-violent protests.

Beautifully illustrated, children will learn that children like themselves were able to make a statement about civil rights, much like their elders.

The struggle for attaining civil rights was not easy, but extremely scary and physically demanding.  Children will see that other children like themselves were able to create positive change, using non-violent means.

The movement was successful, as children will learn that desegregation began on May 10, 1963 as a result of the non-violent protests.

This title is great for younger elementary-aged students.

All the Way to the Top, book cover

All the Way to the Top by Annette Bay Pimentel

Some children may be excited to become participants themselves, much like the children who participated in the 1963 Birmingham March.

This title, appropriate for upper elementary aged children, shows how a kid helped to mobilize people to pass the American Disabilities Act in 1990.

The title of this book comes from Jennifer Keelan's literal struggle to reach the top of the steps at the Capitol in Washington D.C. in order to reach Congress.  Without ramps, people like Jennifer Keelan had no way to personally speak to their Congress representatives.  It was a visually compelling reason to pass the ADA!

Your child will learn all about the process, from the grass roots level, to enact a change to correct a wrong in American society.

The Teachers March!, book cover

The Teachers March! by Sandra Neil Wallace

This title by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated strikingly by Charly Palmer depicts the events in Selma, Alabama that led to the passage of an important Civil Rights Movement achievement: the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Upper elementary aged children will learn how Reverend F. D. Reese mobilized Alabama's teachers to march in Selma, Alabama, though marching had been banned by a judge in Alabama.

With tremendous courage, Reverend Reese convinced teachers to march, counting on the need for teachers, which would prevent arrests.  Though afraid of being arrested, teachers stepped up and marched, showing Americans that change would not be tamped down by unfair laws.

Children will enjoy this important account of the passage of a major law: the Voting Rights Act of 1965.