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Image depicts Child of the Civil Rights Movement book cover with a young Black girl holding a rainbow flag.

Explore Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton

Welcome to Book Explorers! It’s like a book club for kids that you can do anytime, anywhere. This month we’re talking about Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton.

Paula Young Shelton was only a toddler when her parents moved their family from New York to Atlanta, Georgia, where her father would become a leader in the civil rights movement, alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other community members who worked together for racial justice. In Atlanta, Paula and her family experienced many unfair things, because they were Black.  This is her story of growing up in a time and place where unjust laws said she and other African Americans could not do many things, like eating out at a restaurant, spending the night at a hotel, or even going to a movie theater. With her family, Paula stood up for justice and fairness for Black people. Child of the Civil Rights Movement is about the power of community and standing up for what is right and fair for everyone, regardless of their skin color.

Before you read

Civil rights are the rights each individual citizen has under the law, regardless of their skin color, where they come from, or what they believe.  For example, everyone deserves to be able to go to school, to have a job, to have food and water and a permanent place to live, and a vote to choose their leaders.  It means that everyone should be treated equally, with justice and fairness.  In this book, Paula talks about how her father, Andrew Young, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many, many others like Dorothy Cotton and Hosea Williams, fought for everyone to have civil rights.

Check out Child of the Civil Rights Movement from your local Denver Public Library branch.


Librarian Liesel shares an excerpt from Our Skin by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli and Isabel Roxas:

Place a hold on the book Liesel talked about, Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas for pick up at any Denver Public Library.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others, worked for racial justice as part of a community.

Librarian April shares a chapter:

Paula calls Dr. King “Uncle Martin” in the story, even though he isn’t really related to her.  Why do you think she does that?  They would go swimming together, eat meals together, and also do important work together.  Do you have any friends who you consider family?  What do you do together?  

Follow along as Librarian April dives deeper into Child of the Civil Rights Movement:

Discussion questions 

  • Paula’s family works with many others to stand up for the rights of Black people in this true story. They value fairness.  Have you ever thought about what your family values?  What are things your family really cares about?  
  • In the book, Paula tells us that she and her family would often eat at friends’ houses, or they would host dinners, because there were not many restaurants that would serve Black people.  She says, “No matter how many people came to dinner, there was always enough to go around, enough to strengthen, enough to comfort the family of the civil rights movement.”  Think about the food your family often eats.  Is there a favorite food that makes you feel good and strong when you eat it?  Do you have special meals when loved ones come to dinner?   If you could prepare a special meal for your family and friends, what would you make and why?

Create a protest art banner

Creating signs or banners is one way to show your support or to educate others about changes that you would like to see in your community.  Think about your neighborhood.  Is there a problem that needs to be fixed?  Are there people who should be treated better?  Think about what is important to you and to your family and how you can inspire others to work with you to create change in your community.

Your sign or banner can be as big or small as you would like.  You can use poster board, cardboard from a cereal or shipping box or even tape some sheets of blank paper together to create a long banner.  Using crayons or markers, write out the message you would like others in your community to know about.  Draw pictures, add stickers, or anything else that you feel would help your message stand out.  When you are finished, you may choose to put this in the window of your home so that others in your neighborhood will see it.

Create your own menu

Sharing food together is an important part of Child of the Civil Rights Movement.  Think about the foods your family shares with friends and loved ones.  Create a menu of your favorite foods, ones that make you feel good and strong when you eat them.  Try to use all of the major food groups when you create your menu: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and proteins.  Then invent creative names for your foods!  For example, Paula Young Shelton created this menu: Change Chicken, Magic Macaroni and Cheese, Keep America Green Beans, Success Salad, and Cornbread of Courage.  

Write out your menu on a blank piece of paper, using markers or crayons.  You can even draw what your foods look like!  Then share this menu with your family, explaining the importance of each food item you chose.

What to read next

Try one of these books about justice, fairness and finding your own voice.

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