Celebrating The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King Day – With Music and the Arts

Winter holidays are over. 2011 is here. Now is a great time to begin a new year with inspiring ideas and exciting ideals of community-building and service. This year, the day to celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is January 17th and there are so many creative and artistic ways to enjoy and participate in this special day.

First the basics. How do you take MLK’s inspiring life complete with many complex issues and share that with kids? It’s great to start with some of the exceptional children’s books on the topic. One of my personal favorites is a beautifully illustrated book called Martin’s Big Words. There is also an exceptional book written by MLK’s sister: My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There are also wonderful picture books, “First Biographies” and even a “Blast From The Past“ paperback written along the line of the Magic Treehouse series. An exciting book on this topic can make this great life come alive for kids. (A list for young readers appears below.)

Since I am a musician, I always had the desire to take some of MLK’s favorite speeches and use the most popular quotes to write a simple, singable song. The result was my “I Have a Dream” song which I give away free each January. (mp3 downloads, lyrics and sheet music can be found here). I am proud to say this song is being used in schools and classrooms throughout the USA as a singable way to share the ideas that continue to inspire more and more new generations.

Also, since I love art and creativity; especially when working with children, this year I developed two mini-posters that are also free on my website. They show a sketch of MLK and a rainbow as a symbol of hope and to express my own appreciation that he worked for the dignity of people of all colors – not just the equality of one group of American. These posters have some of my favorite lines from famous speeches. One simply has the quote: “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” The other mini-poster shares more words of wisdom such as: “Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” And “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I encourage parents and teachers to let young people color the pictures and think about the quotes. What could those words mean in their homes, classroom and lives? These thoughts are amazing seeds to plant in young minds. You can check out the mini-posters on my monthly song page by clicking here.

And last of all, you can always get even more creative. What could you and your family or class dream up as service projects? What cooperative projects could you do to make your neighborhood or school a more beautiful and accepting place or to meet the needs of your community? Projects and activities can be as simple and fun as drawing pictures for local seniors, making a mural, collecting goods for those who need them or talking about bullying and what can be done to keep it from being a part of your school. Remember, as teachers and parents, your role as a leader can be so important in shaping children’s concepts of what it means to be a valued and valuable part of their community.

As kids grow up with media coverage of pop stars, rock stars and superstars hailed as “being great”, it is so refreshing to share with them the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. – someone who truly lived up to that description. And, in doing so, he helped us understand an unforgettable truth that can motivate us all for years to come: “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has five cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her website; located at dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.

(Friends, If you are reading this after these materials are no longer posted on my monthly website page, please contact me at dariamusic@yahoo.com and I will be happy to get them to you)


Books On Martin Luther King Jr. For Young Readers

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier (Authors)

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Picture Book Biography) [Paperback]
David A. Adler, (Author)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Ready-to-Read. Level 1) by Margaret McNamara and Mike Gordon

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Christine King Farris (Author), Chris Soentpiet (Illustrator)

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.
Johnny Ray Moore and Amy Wummer (Authors)

Martin Luther King, Jr. (My First Biography) Marion Dane Bauer (Author)

King’s Courage (Blast to the Past)
Stacia Deutsch (Author), David Wenzel (Illustrator)

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