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

MLK

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. History.com 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.

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday. I love the cooking, the eating, and the focus on family. There isn’t much pressure and you don’t have to spend a ton of money. The main point is to give thanks and to embrace family. Who wouldn’t love that?

We also celebrate the story of Squanto, the American Indian who helped the pilgrims with their first harvest in 1620. The settlers were struggling and many died before Squanto and his tribe, the Wampanoags, helped the Europeans learn to fish, hunt, and grow their own food. In 1621, to celebrate their harvest, the Pilgrims invited the tribe for a three day feast. While many president’s, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln recognized specific days for Thanksgiving, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November as the official holiday that we celebrate today.

The Thanksgiving meal can vary across regions but often includes a turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. As one of the biggest holidays for travel, it is estimated that in the U.S. around 44 million people will travel by car or air to celebrate the day with family and friends.

We find it is a great time to reflect on the challenges faced by the Pilgrims, the lives of the Native Americans, and the positive and negative results of those interactions. For kids, we recommend these books:

  • The Story of the Pilgrims, Katherine Ross
  • The Very First Americans, Karen Ashrose
  • Squanto’s Journey, Joseph Brubac

For adults we recommend:

  • Book of Thanksgiving, Jessica Faust
  • The First Thanksgiving Feast, Joan Anderson
  • 162: A New Look at Thanksgiving, Catherine O’Neill Grace

For activities, we love to do a Thanksgiving tree and have everyone write what they are thankful for on leaves to add to the tree (usually a cut out on the wall).

Many families go around the table before the meal and everyone shares their thanks. It is also a fun time to read about the pilgrims, about Native Americans, and about life in early America. IMG_5041

Earth Day Ideas

Earth Day is coming up and we have a few book suggestions and activity ideas! With so much discussion about climate change, weather patterns, pollution, and what we can do to protect our earth, now is a great time to commit to sharing a productive Earth day with our children! We are planning a big trash-pick up in a neighborhood near the river with friends of all ages. Then, we plan to celebrate with a plastic-free party, seed planting, and mural drawing. How will you celebrate?

Our favorite books for Earth Day:

  1. Help to Help the Earth, by the Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
  2. Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth, by Mary Siddals
  3. Earth Day, Every Day, by Lisa Bullard
  4. I Can Save the Earth, by Alison Inches
  5. Why Should I Recycle, by Jen Green

Activity Ideas:

  1. Try to get through the whole day without using any plastic.
  2. Plant a tree or two.
  3. Get outside and find a place to pick up trash.
  4. Hug a tree.
  5. Create an Earth Day mural with pictures of things you love about the Earth.
  6. Donate your used clothes and toys to someone who can use them.
  7. Make apple peanut butter balls for the birds (dip the peanut butter in birdseed!)

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day! Americans celebrate this holiday on the first Monday in September. However, over 80 other countries also celebrate Worker’s Day but on May 1. On this day we honor the work advocates, organizers, and protesters have done to make sure our workers are safe, healthy, and fairly paid. We also honor workers who strengthen our country and provide for families.

The Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor organized a parade in New York City to honor workers. In 1887 the holiday was established in September to support workers. Today, it is a federal holiday for most workers. It also marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year for many children. Many families celebrate by hosting BBQ’s and family gatherings. How do you celebrate this holiday?

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