As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
What I liked about this book is that it uses all of its real estate (a historical timeline with children holding up cards like protest signs is printed inside the cover; it was clever and visually appealing).
The illustrations capture that time period perfectly with its retro colors. Let the Children March opens with a child’s-eye view of a chain link fence supporting a White Only sign.
Even though it is stated that Dr. King is in a church, a Bible passage that Dr. King also used should have been included (though I can understand the author wanting this book to appeal to more than just Christians, as equality is an issue that should transcend religion). The page of Dr. King in profile behind the microphone with his Bible on the pulpit was a powerful image and a wonderful likeness.
This book contains some of the best children’s illustrations I’ve seen, as so much depth of emotion is conveyed in the faces of the main characters.
I can understand why the adults feel like they don’t have the freedom to march–as exercising that freedom would come with consequences—out of fear of losing their livelihoods. You’re told you have these rights, but if you exercise them, there are dire consequences. No one should have to choose between their jobs and their freedom.
March showed the fearlessness of children—children who were able to do what their parents could not. They represented an almost innocent sacrifice, though it is stated that Dr. King did not like children being put in harm’s way. It is heartbreaking that children had to fight for what adults should have been able to fight for them rather than just be children, learning to read and playing with their friends. How frightening it must have been to march towards the unknown, knowing only that it was filled with angry people who were much bigger than you.
The aerial shot of the children surrounded by hate in the form of angry dogs and rushing water made my throat catch. The policeman with the hat over his eyes, pulling the curtain on the windows to his soul as he pushed a little girl by the neck and locked these young children into a jail cell was chilling.
Children need to see that Dr. King promoted non-violence as the news prefers to cover only violent protesters. It would’ve been nice to include the song lyrics to the songs of freedom.
“For they are doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind,” Dr. King says. I think this was an important quote to include because what is not good for a certain group of citizens cannot be good for any citizen, as it promotes feelings of disenfranchisement and stirs unrest.
The juxtaposition of the white parents whose children sat safely between them in the comfort of their own home, watching the television where this ugliness was not a part of their world but something they saw on TV with the black parents being separated from theirs, not knowing what might happen to them, struck a chord. I could just feel love and relief emanating from the black parents who held their children in their arms as if they never wanted to let them go, contrasting this tableau with the white parents who didn’t have to hold onto their children so tightly, knowing that they would never be targeted because of their racial make-up.
I greatly admire these (fictitious but based on truth) followers of Dr. King, for it must have taken an amazing amount of grace for them not to become violent back; they gave their enemies no ammunition for treating them like non-persons.
The last picture shows children in the park (bringing it back to the beginning), black and white, playing together; it was never the children who minded—it was only some (not all) adults who wished for the races to remain separate.
Let the Children March is a beautiful book that will help any child “walk in another’s shoes.”
Suggested activity: Read Dr. King’s most famous speech, but if you can, listen to it in his own voice. It’s all the difference between reading someone else’s poem to yourself and listening to the poet who wrote it, speak it.