Recommended for 2nd-5th grade
On MLK, Jr. Day, I never really understood why more places weren’t closed to commemorate him. Here is this amazing man, who started off simple enough, with a loving family that taught him values. This amazing man, who knew even when he was little that he was going “to turn this world upside down.” He had a drive that is rare, but if encouraged, produces wonderful outcomes. He made such a powerful impact during his life, that even the bullet that would take his life, couldn’t stop others from continuing to dream his dream.
This week at school, all I read to my students were books related to Martin Luther King, Jr. My favorite read for my 4th and 5th graders is As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson. I like that it provides students with not only one person’s fight for freedom and equality, but two. The text makes connections between the two figures. The striking idea behind this, is that these figures were on opposites sides of the globe growing up—Martin in Alabama and Abraham in Poland.
The narrative is smooth—it doesn’t jump back and forth. Martin’s life is explained up through the ten years of protesting and in the book it says that Martin put out a call for all G-d’s children to join the fight against prejudice. This provides the transition to Abraham’s life, which begins by saying that Abraham answered Martin’s call, and then continues to give biographical information about his life. The similarities between Martin and Abraham is what will help students develop strong skills in making connections—they are both told that they are “as good as anybody,” they both ran into issues (ex. “WHITES ONLY” or “NO JEWS” and jeering from the KKK), they both believed prejudice was wrong and that they should help stand up for others, they also both followed in the footsteps of their fathers—a Reverend and a Rabbi.
I also took this opportunity to show my students how to use an encyclopedia to search for more information—the book mentions Rosa Parks, so I looked up Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old, who did the exact same thing Mrs. Parks did, but 9 months earlier. We also looked up Poland, where Rabbi Heschel was born, and Adolf Hitler, who affected Heschel’s life.
The end of the book talks about Martin and Abraham marching together and how they were very good friends. I find this a strong point to be made, since they were of two different races and religions.
Michelson, R. (2008). As good as anybody. New York, NY: A.A. Knopf.