Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and today we want to recognize the great work that this man did. People are treated equally under the law (just as they should be) because this brave man, among many other people, stood up for what was right. He did it peacefully and worked through the system to bring about justice. Below are some of the activities I used to try to teach this important lesson to my daughter. The toughest part for me was that I do not think Gess has a true understanding of prejudice because she does not have a true understanding of hate or even dislike. I do not think she can even fathom not liking someone, let alone disliking people for stupid reasons such as the color of their skin. However, since there are many prejudices against person's with special needs, it is a concept I want her to understand. Not to understand so she can feel it, but to understand it enough to fight it.
From our library we checked out the book Free At Last The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. This is a Kindersley reader and is made for children on a level 4 reading skill. It was the easiest book I found however, so I got it and read it to my daughter.
It covered quite a bit of detail about his history and was very enjoyable for us to read. It did take more than one sitting however, but we spent all last week learning about Martin Luther King Jr..
Brainpop is an excellent site for children but it is very expensive. However, they always offer a small set of free videos and usually have any relevant holiday ones free to view around that time. The Martin Luther King Jr. one was (or may still be available) right now. If not, look for it next year on or around his holiday. Gess really loves the Brainpop movies.
Since this wasn't yet available when we began our lessons I looked for other videos. I found this one which is a good summary of his life and significant events. It isn't as child friendly as Brainpop but it was free and pretty well done. Check out the Martin Luther King Jr. Videography at 5min Life Videopedia. It looks like they have lots of educational vidoes and I may check them out more myself when I have time.
We also checked out the movie Ruby Bridges from our local library, but it did not seem to hold Gesserine's interest. I will try again next year, as she probably just needs to be older. This is a Disney movie and I believe it was really well done. It helps children see the events that took place to help integrate the schools today. It's a nice way for children to get a feel for the topic of prejudice without seeing the violence and gore that typical movies show. I know it's a reality, but small children do not need the visual. This does a great job sharing the story of one families fight for civil rights.
We did not do too many activities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day but I found some coloring pages that were really nice at dailycoloringpages.com. This one below is my favorite because it gives a small summary with the image. Gess really liked coloring it too. This site also offers a variety of coloring pages for this holiday among many other topics.
So these are some of the things we did to learn why we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is sad that a peaceful man lost his life to the violence and hatred he battled, but he had a dream and it came true. We honor his memory whenever we look at another human being, whether black or white, or with Down Syndrome or not, and see them not as different but as a fellow human being who is our equal. Let us hope the dream of equality stays alive.