biography · Dr. Martin Luther King · mentor texts · speech

Two Books to Honor MLK

I’ve been accused of running up teachers’ credit card bills because I recommend lots of books both here, on my personal blog, and when I present to teachers.  My apologies, but I’m about to cost you a few more dollars in the next few minutes.

I’ve been reading biographies about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who we honor tomorrow, since I was in elementary school.  I have conferred about many a MLK biography with students in reading conferences.  I’ve read picture books about him aloud to my former students.  Just in the past week I’ve read two great new books about Dr. King that I wish I had when I was a classroom teacher.  They are:


I Have a Dream with paintings by Kadir Nelson

This book is a treasure for classes studying the art of speech writing or even how to repeat a line artfully!  Open the front cover and you’ll find a CD that contains Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which you can play for your class.  Nelson’s book begins with the part of Dr. King’s speech that begins with “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”  It continues through the very end of Dr. King’s speech. The “I have a dream” paragraphs of Dr. King’s speech are represented in full color with illustrations of the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.  There are illustrations of people from different races coming together, holding hands, and standing side-by-side throughout the book.  (BTW: The entire text of King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech is contained on the last two pages of the book.)  It’s a beautiful representation of the speech’s text.


I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

Many books tell the story of Dr. King’s life.  This one tells Dr. King’s story weaving the theme of non-violence throughout the book.  Precise details about the civil rights movement along with vivid language make this book useful to readers who want to learn more about Dr. King and writers who are looking for a mentor to help them craft a well-written biography.  Jenkins’ illustrations drew me in for both the realistic scenes he captured and with the way he composed each painting on the page.

May tomorrow be more than just a day off from work and school.  May tomorrow be a day when we commemorate the life of a great man who worked peacefully for justice and equality in this country.  May the example set by Dr. King inspire us all.

5 thoughts on “Two Books to Honor MLK

  1. When my son was in first grade, he was so inspired by a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. I loved that he cared about the fate of this amazing man. I remember we bought him a MLK t-shirt which was adult-sized and HUGE. He’s in college now, but has kept the t-shirt which now fits him, and he wears it from time to time. Personally, I can never – ever – get through “Martin’s Big Words” without crying – even in front of my students. In my current class, we’ve been reading “The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963,” and I cannot begin to express how this time period touches them — and me. Our reading experience of this time in history connects us. I believe MLK would be happy about that connection. We are connecting through him – and others – and want our world to be different.


  2. I love Kadir Nelson books. My favorite has to be We are the Ship since I have a passion for everything baseball. But knowing there is a book about MLK, Jr. I may have to run out to the book store tomorrow and see if I can find this book. Thanks for sharing more books that need to be in my library.


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