Every good preschool curriculum includes a social studies component. Children get the chance to learn about community helpers, important figures in history, and holidays from various cultural traditions. At the preschool I ran, Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year were always the big favorites – especially the feasts and colorful decorations. One year during election season we even set up a voting booth so our little students could practice choosing candidates just like their moms and dads. Groundhog Day was another annual favorite. Would he see his shadow or not? For my part, I always felt it was important to tell the children about Martin Luther King, Jr.
We discussed with the children how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an important Civil Rights leader during the 1960s in America. He fought for justice for people of all colors, and inspired others to fight alongside him with his speeches, like “I Have A Dream,” and with his actions, like his march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. King was a preacher and a family man and won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. Americans still celebrate his memory and achievements each January. The lesson was simple but powerful.
We did not teach children at this age about Martin Luther’s violent end. They’ll learn soon enough about the world’s injustices and brutality, and murder is just not a concept they’re ready to understand.
One year, though, a teacher missed this guideline, and taught her class that Martin Luther had been shot and killed. The effects were nearly immediate.
At the end of each day, teachers would take children out to their parents in their cars in the carpool line. As one little girl from this class was being buckled in her carseat, she said to her mother, “Mommy, someone got shot today in school!”
You can only imagine the mother’s reaction – horror and fear. “Oh no! What happened? Who got shot?” The sweet little child replied, “Martin Ruffer. He got shot in school today,” which didn’t help things much.
We finally got things sorted out, but the teacher definitely learned her lesson. If you’d like to talk to your preschooler about Martin Luther King, Jr., here are some resources and activities I recommend: