Child of the Civil Rights Movement

What It Is

Paula Young Shelton, daughter of a civil rights leader and former U.S. ambassador Andrew Young, gives readers an eyewitness account of her extraordinary experiences as a child living in the Deep South during the civil rights movement. Born in New York, where there were no Jim Crow laws, Paula and her family moved to the Deep South so her parents could help “Uncle Martin” and his friends put an end to the oppressive treatment of African Americans. Paula tells readers about the joys of living in a close community and the struggles of a child growing up in a society where they were often told “no” because of the color of their skin. Among the experiences Paula shares is hiding under the table as her father, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, strategized how to win the right to vote, ultimately leading to the peaceful Selma-to-Montgomery March in which she actually marched.

Why It’s Fun

In her first picture book, Ms. Shelton, a first-grade teacher and mother, gives us a moving snapshot of an important period of U.S. history. Because the story is autobiographical, it’s easy to connect with the main character and get a sense of the range of emotions she felt. And, biographies are an excellent way to teach children about history. As icing on the cake, Raul Colón’s illustrations are both poignant and magnificent and capture the feelings of the time.

Who’s Going To Love It

February is Black History Month, and it’s a perfect time to remind ourselves of our responsibility as adults to create an environment of respect, understanding and tolerance for our children. Though some young children may not fully grasp the gravity of the actions and issues involved in the civil rights movement, this book is a great opportunity to share an important moment in time and pass its lessons on to a future generation. For some kids, historical picture books may not generate repeat requests, which is a shame, because books such as this one present a wonderful chance to learn together. Whether you build your own historical picture book collection or visit your community’s library, Ms. Shelton’s book is worth revisiting again and again. Not only is the message important, as kids grow and learn, they will take something new away with each reading.

Reading Time

About 8 minutes

Read-It-Again Points

8 out of 10

Book Information

Child of the Civil Rights Movement
By: Paula Young Shelton; Illustrated by Raul Colón
Published by: Schwartz & Wade, an Imprint of Random House Children’s Books (2010)
Approximate retail price: $17.99
Publisher’s recommended ages: 4 - 8


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