Harlow’s school has a big focus on Martin Luther King Jr. in kindergarten through 1st grade. So, Harlow, who is a human sponge and takes school very seriously, has spent the past few years learning about who he was, what he stood for, singing songs about him, and reading everything she can get her hands on.

You know how some kids are obsessed with rocks or dinosaurs?

For Harlow, that’s Civil Rights Leaders.

I know it sounds like I am making this up, but she struggles in reading and her teachers told me that she does better when the subject interests her. For the past three years, whenever we walk into a bookstore or library, Harlow gravitates to the first book she sees with Martin Luther King Jr.’s face. For awhile, that was all she wanted me to read, so I just went with it. We started with Martin’s Big Words (an illustrated children’s book that won the Coretta Scott King Award) and then started to get Easy Reader books. We have books at all different reading levels now and each one tells us new details about MLK’s life.

Slowly but surely, Harlow began to notice the faces around MLK at the bookstore as well, like Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She told me that her favorite books are about real people. I told her those are called biographies. At her school book fair, back in December, where she had her own money to spend and could buy anything she liked, she came home with another book about MLK, but also books on Abe Lincoln, Helen Keller and Sonia Sotomayor.

In one book I read to her recently, they talked about Claudette Colvin refusing to give up her seat months before Rosa Parks did the same. I thought it was going to be confusing and tried to explain that the reason Rosa Parks was more famous was because she happened to ignite a movement in her city. Harlow totally got it. She very simply said, “So Claudette Colvin was like Rosa Park’s hero. Just like Ghandi was one of Martin Luther King’s heroes.” I love thinking about this continuing chain of heroes. One hero helping to create another. I don’t know what Harlow will do in her lifetime or what causes she will want to champion, but I know she is building her base of heroes to learn from and inform her actions.

Today, Harlow brought out all her MLK books so we could read them together. Her favorite is Martin’s Big Words because she can read some of it on her own. It includes our favorite MLK quote, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

Our Favorite Books About Martin Luther King Jr:

Martin’s Big Words
By Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Bryan Collier, Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award

I am Martin Luther King Jr.
By Brad Meltzer as part of his “Ordinary People Change the World” series, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

My Little Golden Book About Martin Luther King Jr.
By Bonnie Bader, Illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Martin Luther King Jr., A Peaceful Leader
I Can Read (Level 2), By Sarah Albee, Pictures by Chin Ko

Dream March
Step Into Reading History Reader (Step 3), By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

The Story of Civil Rights
Historical Chapter Book (Level 3), By Wil Mara 

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Chapter Book by Bonnie Bader, Illustrated by Elizabeth Wolf

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everyone. Here’s to finding this generation’s heroes!