Martin's Big Words
Author: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrator: Brian Collier
Ages: 6 and up
For more ideas how to teach this in the classroom, go here.
Element Four: Social Movements and Social Change
Summary: This is a beautiful book about the life of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and his work during the Civil Rights Movement. The book emphasizes the importance of non-violence during a social movement, and the power of getting together to make a difference. It describes the emotions King felt as a child, feeling inadequate because he and his people had to be kept separate from the whites. The story shows that even he was inspired by others, whether it was his mother and father or Gandhi. It describes different events during the Civil Rights Movement, such as the bus boycott and marches. The book is unique in that it includes actual quotes from speeches Martin Luther King Jr. gave, which makes the book more real to the reader. The book expresses how important Martin Luther King Jr was to the movement, but more than that, how important is message was, or love, peace and unity, and that the idea that everybody, no matter what race, religion, social status, is born equal.
Element Four: Martin's Big Words fits in perfectly with the Element Four subject of social movement and social change because Martin Luther King Jr.'s life was dedicated to changing the way things were for African Americans in the United States. It's also important to note that the book also mentions other people who started a social movement and change, Gandhi and Rosa Parks. King also inspired change, because although many people believed that was the only way to fight their rights, he preached nonviolence and insisted on fighting with words not fists. He wanted to bring peace, and advocated for African Americans to show love to those that hated and disrespected them. Martin Luther King Jr. started out as a young boy unsatisfied with a system, listening to is fathers sermons, to a man that would be the heart of a movement that changed the word forever. The book sends a message that everyone has the capability to share their voice, in any way they can, even when they may feel discouraged.
In the classroom: The Civil Rights Movement is a very important part of American history, and should not only be taught during Black History month. Teaching about this period of American history is not easy, as the subject is very sad and often frustrating, bu should never be glossed over, Instead, the subject requires a lot of discussion, and the students need to have an outlet to express how they feel about it. This book is full of subjects to talk about with students. One question I would ask is, "Why do you think Martin Luther King Jr. believed in fighting with words instead of fists?" To really understand the subject, you must also go over some vocabulary words with the students, such as protest, freedom, segregation, rights. Writing will be an important part of students expressing themselves, such as writing in a journal. If the students are not on a level in which they can write sentences easily, drawing would be important too. I would have them express how they would feel if they could not use the same facilities as someone else because of their skin color, and how they would try to fight to get the same rights as everyone else. It would also be a great segway to specific moments of the Civil Rights Movement, like more details on Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, and if they are old enough, like 4th or 5th grade, you can even discuss the Ku Klux Klan.