Category Archives: Holidays

5 Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day!


Every January, many Americans have a day off to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This holiday allows us to honor the birthday of one of our most famous and influential Civil Rights leaders.

Born in Georgia in 1929, King fought for equality and justice throughout his life. He believed in peaceful protest as a way to bring about social change. Legal racial segregation in the U.S. ended in large part due to his work. With this holiday, we celebrate his life, his work, and take the time to reflect and honor his legacy.

This is also a great time to talk about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. While King was an important leader, there were many people who contributed to the cause including Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and many others. In addition, this is a great time to talk about what those people fought for and the events in our history that made the movement important.

A review of the movement could start with the slave trade and the devastating effects of slavery in the South. Discuss the many heroes in the abolitionist movement including those who helped many escape from the South. The Civil War resulted in freedom for the slaves and Reconstruction provided many opportunities cut short by segregationist policies. The Great Migration saw many flee to opportunities in the North and was the impetus for the Harlem Renaissance and the flowering of African American art and music. Today there continue to be setbacks and struggle within our communities and King’s birthday can be a time to talk about how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

Finally, while children living abroad are exposed to a wide variety of world history, geography, and language experiences unavailable in the U.S., sometimes our own history is given short shrift. Families can incorporate books, stories, and activities into home life to ensure children know about their own holidays and historical leaders as well as those in the host country.

Here are five ideas for learning about King and celebrating his birthday with the family.

  1. Create a timeline of Civil Rights history after reading books about the topic or watching videos. is a great place to find educational videos.
  2. Celebrate his birthday with a cake and make cards thanking him for his work!
  3. Learn about his “I have a Dream” speech and then make lists of personal and family dreams and goals.
  4. Talk about diversity and equality in the United States and in the country in which you are living. Compare and contrast the history of equality in the U.S. and in other countries.
  5. Give back and honor King’s commitment to service. Volunteer at a local shelter, arrange a neighborhood trash pick-up, or make a donation to a favorite charity.

Our favorite books about King include:

  • For all children, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport, is a Caldecott award winner that tells the story of his life using his original writing.
  • For elementary children, I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King and Kadir Nelson, pairs King’s most famous speech with beautiful pictures
  • Middle school children will enjoy Free at Last, by Angela Bull, which is a thorough biography with illustrations.

Martin Luther King, Jr., fought to end racial segregation and inspired, and continues to inspire, many Americans. This holiday is perfect for discussing the Civil Rights Movement and the impact of one of the movement’s most famous leaders.


Memorial Day

Memorial day is the American holiday for remembering people who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. armed forces. After the Civil War, Decoration Day was among one several days marked to honor the fallen but they all eventually merged into what we know as Memorial Day. This holiday is held on the last Monday in May and is often celebrated with parades, parties, and moments of silence. Cemeteries will be decorated with flags, flowers, and personal mementos by family members.

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Many schools in the U.S. require that students know the meaning and history of national holidays. To share more information about this holiday with your elementary children, read them these books:

  • Let’s Get Ready for Memorial Day, Lloyd G. Douglas
  • Memorial Day Surprise, Teresa Golding
  • The Wall, Eve Bunting
  • Memorial Day, Christin Ditchfield

Looking for an activity to celebrate the holiday and learn a bit more about the history? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Write a letter to a thank you letter to someone currently serving in the armed forces.
  2. Research the U.S. military and the different ways in which a soldier can serve. Create an organizational chart with a brief description of each branch and then list some of the jobs available in each section.
  3. Visit a nursing home or neighbor and ask what they remember about our countries wars. Write down their responses. Then, write a thank you letter thanking them for their time.
  4. Make a list of each war and the dates. Then, visit a cemetery and try to find someone who fought or died in each war. Leave flowers at three graves (if allowed by the cemetery.
  5. Flag activities! Make a flag out of tissue paper balls, construction paper, or fabric. Research the history of our flag. Read a book about Betsy Ross. Learn a new song about the flag. Go out as a family and buy an American flag for your front door.Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 3.15.50 PM

Books about Easter

Easter is a big cultural holiday in America. Most children have the opportunity to go to an egg hunt, get a basket of goodies from the Easter Bunny, or see trees covered in plastic eggs while driving down the street. But, what are the origins of the holiday? Easter Sunday, celebrated in Christian churches, celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some churches choose to refer to the holiday as Resurrection Day because of the pagan origins of some Easter celebrations.

For those interested in learning about the cultural traditions, here are some children’s books to read aloud:

  • The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, Mike and Jan Berenstain
  • Fancy Nancy’s Elegant Easter, Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser
  • God Gave Us Easter, Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant
  • What is Easter, Michelle Medlock Adams and Amy Wummer

Of course, even children who are not being raised in a Christian religious tradition can benefit by learning about the customs and the history behind the holiday. Easter also links to Passover in the Jewish calendar due to timing and some similar symbolism. In addition, there are plenty of links with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman stories as well.


Christmas books

Compare and Contrast Christmas Stories and Traditions

Christmas is an opportunity to compare holiday celebrations around the world. The following books explore different stories and traditions around the world. Read the books and find a fun activity to do together while talking about the importance of culture and traditions and finding ways to connect these stories to the stories in your own family. Christmas is a religious holiday and many of these books reflect that. Those from other religious traditions can compare these stories to those in their own religion.

Reference the Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.9 Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.

  1. Christmas Cards. Read about poinsetta’s and paint your own on a blank card. Or, take a photo of your painting and print off multiple copies to make your holiday cards.
  2. Holiday Baking. Find the recipe for lussekatter, or Lucia Cat Buns, in the book about the Saint of Light. Bake the buns with a friend.
  3. Clean Out the Old. Clean out your house and throw away four items for each member of the family as you get ready for holiday loot. Read Horn’s book for inspiration.
  4. Learn to Juggle. Read about the clown and try to learn to juggle. Find Youtube tutorials to help you. Try to juggle three apples, bars of soap, or wadded up pieces of paper.
  5. Create a Tradition. Read about tinsel and the give-away and then try to start your own family tradition.