As a family, we slow down and take time to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We’ve read books about his life, his teachings and his work. We’ve hiked mountains (hills, really) and taken part in celebrations full of music, readings and tributes to his legacy in our community. And, since MLK Day is also a National Day of Service, we have also participated in serving meals, clean ups and other service projects.
I’m still learning, though, about how to do justice to this man’s legacy and raise children who have an accurate and activist stance on social justice. I’m still learning about how my own identity and the stereotypes I’ve grown up with impact how I present MLK’s legacy to my kids.
For example, this year, I read about the danger of presenting “a single story,” so we’ve been reading about the lives of people who inspired Dr. King, to help our kids see that he did not work alone—the change making he moved forward has deep roots, and there is still so much to be done.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
This year, Martin Luther King Jr.’s day is playing out against a backdrop of uncertainty, threats of disorder and violence, and the very kind of hatred that Dr. King worked to combat. It feels all the more important to help our kids grow up to be the best change makers they can be.
So, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we want to celebrate young change makers—young people who have already made incredible impact in their communities and beyond, tackling issues of justice and raising the quality of life for others. We hope that you find it helpful to read and share these stories with your children. And we hope these stories of real life activists help reinforce with kids that there is much to be done in our world while they also help kids focus on action and plant a seed of hopeful desire to make their own impact on the world someday, too.
A few of our change makers have collaborated with us at Tinkergarten, while others have captured our hearts with the work they have done. And, there are many more young change makers we didn’t get the chance to profile who are using their energy, time and spirit to tackle issues of injustice in their communities. We celebrate them all as we share the stories of this handful of powerful change makers.
Aaliyah Hall is the dynamic and delightful founder of Dreamland with Aaliyah. Since March 30th, 2020, this amazing 10-year-old has provided inspiring live and recorded read-alouds to make sure that kids everywhere have access to literature during the pandemic. She has curated 200 stories of hope that represent the diversity of our communities. Join her on Facebook Sundays at 7 p.m. ET for live readings and visit Aaliyah's YouTube channel to enjoy her beautiful read alouds. Or, watch how she read “The Rabbit Listened,” one of our favorite empathy-boosting books, as part of our Camp Tinkergarten series.
Haile Thomas started cooking when she was only 8 years old. She was solving a really important problem—helping her dad get healthy when he was sick. Haile didn't stop there, though. She wrote a cookbook and started to speak and write about how our diets could impact our health. She has helped people all over the world learn to use good, yummy food to lead healthier, happier lives. Visit Haile’s site to test out some of her delicious recipes or learn more about her books and programs. Watch an inspiring video message Haile recorded just for Tinkergarten explorers!
Time Magazine’s first ever “Kid of the Year” in 2020, Gitanjali Rao is curious, confident and passionate about science. Gitanjali has used technology in innovative ways to tackle really challenging problems ranging from increasing access to clean drinking water to putting a stop to cyberbullying. She is on a mission to build an international community of young problem-solvers who can work together to innovate and change the world. We love that Gitanjali also wants to make sure that every kid knows that they can be a scientist and a change maker.
Nicole Jackson is a naturalist, environmental educator celebrated by PBS and Children And Nature Network. Jackson, along with fellow scientists and birders, helped to promote Black Birders Week—a week of online birding events that celebrate Black scientists and birders and challenge stereotypes about who belongs in the fields of nature and science. In her work as a teacher and an activist, she seeks to “empower those in under-served communities to find their voice to make their environment better, and to grow environmental stewards for the world.” Read more about Nicole on PBS Nature and learn more about Black Birders Week here.
Time Magazine Kid of the Year finalist Ian McKenna noticed that nearly a quarter of the kids in his school did not have enough food to eat. A gardener at home, he worked with his school to set aside space for a garden, and gathered donations to set it up and start to grow food for the families in his school community. This was the start of a project called McKenna’s Giving Garden. Seven years later, the program has expanded to five schools, and the gardens have provided enough organic vegetables and fruits for 25,000 meals to families and food pantries in his Austin, TX community. Read more about Ian from Time Magazine or visit @garden_for_hunger on Instagram to see images of the program at work.
These young people’s wonderful contributions to the planet are big and small but all should remind us that every changemaking effort counts. What can you do to make your corner of the world a better place? On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and beyond, let’s help water that seed of activism within our kids.