Six Important Books About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For Kids & Teens

Today, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of justice, peace, and equality is more important than ever. His courageous life exemplifies what happens when ordinary people stand up for what's right. He is an inspiration that changed America for the better. And on Monday, January 15th we celebrate his legacy.

Help your kids discover more about this influential leader with these six books specially selected for you by Clare Doornbos at Book Passage

For Younger Readers

Be A King by Carole Boston

You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.

You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.

Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King's life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford's poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King's example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world.

I Am Martin Luther King Jr. by Brad Meltzer

This small format picture book with fun comic-book-style illustration and simple text concentrates on King's life as a child. There's also plenty here about the civil rights movement, but it comes late in the book. The subtitle of this whole series of kid-friendly biographies is "Ordinary People Change the World", a powerful message in itself.

I Have a Dream illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Some of the key moments from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech illustrated in vibrant detail with images of the March on Washington and of Americans of all colors working, living and playing together. The book also contains a CD of the speech itself, great for use as a teacher resource.

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.? by Bonnie Bader

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 25 when he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was soon organizing black people across the country in support of the right to vote, desegregation, and other basic civil rights. Maintaining nonviolent and peaceful tactics even when his life was threatened, King was also an advocate for the poor and spoke out against racial and economic injustice until his death?from an assassin's bullet?in 1968. With clearly written text that explains this tumultuous time in history and 80 black-and-white illustrations, this Who Was celebrates the vision and the legacy of a remarkable man.

For Teens

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League--but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. 

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

March: Book 1 by John Lewis

The graphic novel biography of Congressman John Lewis, is actually a history of the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. does make an appearance in this book, but the wider historical context is what makes this award-winning series of books so important.