Supporting the community we share is more important than ever. Increased demand for basics like food and housing have strained social systems. Seeing individuals experiencing homelessness, watching stories on the news or discussing changes at home may prompt a series of questions without easy answers. Explaining social issues and the needs of others to young children can be challenging.
As parents and caregivers, we are often tasked with helping children learn more about the world and their role in it. This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, start a new tradition that honors community heroes, fosters awareness and teaches children how to help. The lead-up to Valentine’s Day is an excellent way to introduce love for our community and our neighbors, with examples to inspire us in both history and daily living.
Here are four ways to teach children about civil rights and our community:
Read about civil rights heroes in books created for young readers: Plan the week’s lessons or bedtime stories with civil rights heroes in mind. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an excellent start but many other historical figures also overcame extraordinary circumstances. From Ruby Bridges to Rosa Parks, this list of 17 age-appropriate civil rights titles every child should read can bring history to life. “Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-In” can also help make the content relevant and local. Tolerance.org, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also offers a free downloadable activity book with stories, songs and coloring pages for children.
Connect with a cause: Taking the time to form a genuine human connection in support of a bigger issue can make an important difference. Work with your school, church or other community organizations to find a non-profit that allows families to volunteer. Take a tour, spend a day engaging in community service and commit to returning when possible. If going in-person is not an option, be intentional about donating. Allow children to shop for a new item like a toy or coat for a specific charity drive or donate part of their allowance after explaining why resources are needed. See a list of organizations in and around Oklahoma City accepting volunteers.
Help the helpers: Teaching children to support those who serve can round out family conversations about the work medical professionals, police officers, firefighters and so many others do each day. Introduce children to the adults who can help in an emergency. Give them a chance to say thank you with a homemade card, baked item or other small gift. Meeting people in this way reassures children that adults are here to handle problems that may arise and teaches them about different professions.
Start a new tradition: Plan a special outing to see your city. Broaden children’s horizons with a day of art from diverse sources, eating new food and finding out about friends, neighbors and others whose differences enrich our society.
Continue the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day beyond just a single month or day. These practices are applicable throughout the year as part of your classroom culture or parenting routines. If you have a favorite way to celebrate the community that others should know about, email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can consider sharing it with our social media followers.
As a fellow non-profit organization, we are always grateful for our local supporters. We are proud to help both parents and caregivers, who in turn aid Oklahoma’s youngest learners. Find out more at https://www.rainbowfleet.org/donate.