Martin Luther King, Jr. Day honors the great Civil Rights leader and has the distinction of being the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service. On this day, Americans are encouraged to work together toward community improvement.

We created this book list to celebrate a significant American leader and packed it with resources that promote positive changes to create a more just and accepting world, beginning with our littlest community members.

  • Pro-tip: Track the books you & your children are reading. Download the free app The Storygraph, created and owned by Black female tech entrepreneur Nadia Odunayo.

All titles are available through the Debra S Fish Early Childhood Resource Library, a branch of the St. Paul Public Library.

Children’s titles

A preschool age daughter leans against her father's shoulder as he smiles down at her.

My Heart Beats by Rina Singh


My Heart Beats (Age focus: Baby – 3 years)

A beautiful photographic board book featuring babies from all over the world and the sounds their hearts make as they beat with love.

No matter what language we speak, no matter where we live in the world, our hearts beat with the same rhythm. We may hear and say the sounds differently—doki doki in Japanese, tu tump tu tump in Italian, dugeun dugeun in Korean, dhak dhak in Urdu, boum boum in French and thump thump in English—but when our hearts beat, all the sounds mean the same thing: you are alive and you are loved. From the publisher


Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking into a microphone, illustration

My Little Golden Book about Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bonnie Bader


My little golden book about martin luther king, jr. (age focus: 2 – 5 years)

This Little Golden Book captures the essence of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the littlest readers. They’ll learn how his childhood in segregated Atlanta—and in his father’s church—shaped the future civil rights leader. And they’ll gain a clear understanding of the way he became an eloquent, powerful voice for African Americans. From the publisher


Five separate photographs of Black children's faces.

Shades of Black by Sandra Pinkney


Shades of black (age focus: 3 – 7 years)

Recipient of a Kirkus Starred Review

In a simple, patterned text full of rich vocabulary, Pinkney describes the different skin tones, hair textures, and eye colors of the African-American children shown in the photographs, with each child holding the object discussed in the text on that page. Skin colors are described with food metaphors (“the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar”); hair textures are compared to items with texture (“the stiff ringlets in lambs wool”); and eye colors are related to polished stones (“the shimmering glow of ebony in an onyx”). This metaphoric structure succeeds both poetically and educationally, providing a subtle lesson in racial awareness and tolerance that will be welcomed by both parents and teachers. From Kirkus Reviews

Also available as a Board Book


Group of diverse children following their teacher in a line.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold


All are welcome (age focus: 3 – 8 years)

Recipient of a Kirkus Starred Review

Readers follow school kids from a rich diversity of backgrounds in this exuberant and inclusive work. Children wear yarmulkes, dress in hijabs, and some use wheelchairs to get around. They play together, learn together, and share their different cultural traditions. The students learn about and take part in a Dragon dance for the Lunar New Year. The book also depicts a wide variety of family types; there are children with a single parent, those with two moms or two dads, or kids who have parents from different racial backgrounds. From School Library Journal


Two young girls walking together, illustration.

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët


I walk with vanessa (Age focus: 4 – 8 years)

Recipient of a Kirkus Starred Review

In this powerful wordless tale by the French duo Kerascoët (Paul and Antoinette), a child reaches out to a fellow pupil who has been bullied. Vanessa isn’t the only child of color in her school, but she is new; the teacher introduces her, and she sits by herself. On the way home, she’s accosted by a boy with yellow hair, cries, and runs back to her house. Another girl sees what has happened, and, in an important series of vignettes, the artists make it clear how much the incident upsets her-one nighttime spread shows both girls awake and despondent in their bedrooms. In the morning, the girl invites Vanessa to walk to school with her, and they are soon joined by other children. It’s not a story about bullying per se-although Vanessa’s pain is evident, her emotions are not its focus. Instead, it looks at stepping up and being an ally. The wordless pages and small, toylike figures make this a good choice for young children who can work out for themselves what has happened, what Vanessa’s new friend does, and why it works. From Publisher’s Weekly


Small boy waters a seedling with a watering can.

Something, Someday by Amanda Gorman


Something, Someday (Age Focus: 4 – 8 years)

Recipient of a Kirkus Starred Review

Sometimes the world feels broken. And problems seem too big to fix. But somehow, we all have the power to make a difference. With a little faith, and maybe the help of a friend, together we can find beauty and create change.

With intimate and inspiring text and powerfully stunning illustrations, Something, Someday reveals how even the smallest gesture can have a lasting impact. From the publisher

Adult’s titles
Advancing Equity and Embracing Diversity in Early Childhood Education: Elevating Voices and Actions
Expanding on recommendations from NAEYC’s “Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education” position statement, the contributors to this invaluable resource navigate difficult and complex topics and offer guidance on how to apply more equitable pedagogical practices. Grounded in theoretical frameworks and current research, the chapters look at both the history of inequity in the profession and what the future of education can mean for all children. From the publisher

Hearing All Voices: Culturally Responsive Coaching in Early Childhood
Hearing All Voices offers a culturally responsive framework that supports educators in understanding the importance of equity in their interactions with children and families. The framework focuses on implementing practical strategies that can help increase equity in early education through day-to-day interactions. Written as a guidebook to support early childhood coaches to get inspiration, knowledge, and tools as they guide teachers from diverse backgrounds in early childhood settings, this book weaves together the latest in the science of change, brain development, adult learning, and practical “how-to” to transfer this into practice. From the publisher

Reflection, Perspective-Taking, and Social Justice: Stories of Empathy and Kindness in the Early Childhood Classroom

How can we support children and teachers’ continued growth as kind, caring, compassionate people who work towards equity in this world? At School for Friends in Washington, DC, educators Makai Kellogg, Magy Youssef, and Sabina Zeffler and mentor Jacky Howell have worked to nurture and strengthen children’s dispositions for empathy and kindness, anchored by Quaker values, the guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement, and mindfulness practice, with a lens of social justice and equity. The authors weave real stories and reflections as they trace the learning journey of children in their program from toddlers through the time they leave for kindergarten. From the publisher

King: A Life
Recipient of a Kirkus Starred Review

Mining a trove of materials–many only recently available–augmented with voluminous archival work and hundreds of interviews for personal insights, Eig advances the already appreciable quantity of first-rate biographies and intensive scholarship on King. He also recovers the man, foibles and all, from the too often hollowed-out, sainted symbol that competing ideologies have sanitized for national observance. His 45 engrossing chapters depict King from his enslaved family’s history in antebellum Georgia, his stern father’s high expectations, and his soothing mother’s calm warmth, through his April 1968 assassination in Memphis. The ambitious, anxious, contemplative, depressed, fun-loving, uncertain private King gets equal attention to the determined, eloquent, fearless public person in the spotlight. From his decrying state-sanctioned and vigilante violence to his stance against the U.S. war in Vietnam and his Poor People’s Campaign, Eig notes it all and paints a thorough picture of King. From Library Journal

Why We Can’t Wait
Nobel Peace Prize Winner

In this remarkable book–winner of the Nobel Peace Prize–Dr. King recounts the story of Birmingham in vivid detail, tracing the history of the struggle for civil rights back to its beginnings three centuries ago and looking to the future, assessing the work to be done beyond Birmingham to bring about full equality for African Americans. Above all, Dr. King offers an eloquent and penetrating analysis of the events and pressures that propelled the Civil Rights movement from lunch counter sit-ins and prayer marches to the forefront of American consciousness. From the publisher

Other resources


Contact Jennie with any questions: or (651) 641-3544.
Available through MNLINK ( or St. Paul Public Library ( All you need is a library card.  Resources can be delivered and returned to any Minnesota public library.

By Jennie Walker Knoot