The meaning behind holidays
         This Monday, schools and many businesses will be closed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Do your children understand why there will be no school?

         Talking about the meaning of a holiday can give children a deeper understanding and appreciation of its importance - not only in the history of our country, but in our own lives as individuals.

         One of the more striking aspects between this holiday and one such as Presidentsí Day, celebrated next month, is that many of todayís parents were alive during the time that Dr. King lived. 

         Secondly, there are film and videotape of him speaking. Though some of the scenes may be dated by now, the people donít look that much different than they do today.

         Most importantly, we can remember changes in our lives that have been made as a result of the work that Dr. King and many other people have done.

         In a very real sense, we are a link to this recent history because we can recall specifics about this historical figure and the times in which he lived. This distinguishes our talk about him and his ideals from those of such people as Washington and Lincoln. It doesnít make the older presidentsí lives and contributions less significant -- it just removes us from them because none of us, or anyone we know, was alive during their times.

         Were you active in the Civil Rights Movement? Did you live in or ever visit a place where segregation was the norm? Did you hear any of Dr. Kingís speeches or sermons in person? Do you remember where you were when you heard the news that he had been shot? What did you experience in the days following his death? What changes have you made in your own perspective since those days?

         The impressions that you convey to your child will help to bring history closer to her. 

         To follow up and get more information with your youngster, visit the website at, which includes many of Dr. Kingís papers, speeches, and sermons.

         This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice to Parents.

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