Meaningful ways to celebrate MLK Jr. Day with kids
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is much more than a day to be off from school or work. Use the holiday to participate in activities that educate your children about Dr. King’s role in changing the social landscape of the United States. Here are a few ways to do so:
• Visit the Upcountry History Museum – Furman University. The Greenville museum will be open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, and the museum also features permanent exhibits relevant to the civil rights movement in Greenville and its surrounding areas. It’s a great way for kids to learn more about what the civil rights movement was and how it played out locally. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children ages 4 – 18 with free admission for children 3 and younger. For more details, visit http://www.upcountryhistory.org.
• Visit the library. There are numerous books that feature stories of African-Americans overcoming adversity that also teach positive lessons to kids of all ages. Consider checking out and reading together some of these award-winning titles: “Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad” by Ellen Levine, for ages 6 and older; “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport, for ages 5 and older; and “Tar Beach” by Faith Ringgold, for ages 5 and older.
• Watch a documentary or civil rights-themed movie. If you have Netflix streaming, you’re in luck. There are several kid-appropriate films and documentaries available to illustrate this historical movement. “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” is based on the popular middle-grade novel of the same title and follows a couple and their three children as they travel to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The six-part documentary series “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” originally aired on PBS in 2013 but is now available on Netflix. The fifth episode, which is 53 minutes long, focuses on 1940 – 1968 and highlights efforts made by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Amazon Original Special "An American Girl Story—Melody 1963: Love Has to Win" is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. Based in 1963 Detroit during the civil rights movement, the movie centers around 10-year-old Melody whose eyes are opened to the racial inequality surrounding her, including the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing. As a result, her belief in the “indivisible” promise of our country’s Pledge of Allegiance comes into question as she challenges her teacher on the validity of this given the horrific tragedy. After an emotional journey of self-reflection, her mother gives her the courage she needs by instilling in her that love brings out the best in everyone; reminding Melody that it’s important to “stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard or scary.”
• Watch Dr. King’s Speeches. Youtube features many of the civil rights leader’s speeches, and older children can see firsthand how effective he was at delivering his messages. His famous "I Have a Dream Speech" can be found here. For those with cable, CSPAN will air a 30-minute press interview with Dr. King at 8 p.m. Monday.
• Discuss tolerance. FamilyEducation.com features an activity to help kids recognize discrimination. Parents present their children with a hypothetical situation about a boy on the playground who is different and then ask their children how they would respond.
• Participate in community events. There are many events happening in the Upstate over the next several days in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You'll find a list of them compiled below.