Child of the Civil Rights Movement

Written by: Paula Young Shelton

Illustrated by: Raul Colón

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Modern Black Freedom Struggle, Black Culture & Identity, Activism, Protest, Historical Figures, Non-Fiction, Community, Family.


When Paula was 4 years old, her family moved from New York back down South to organize and protest during the Civil Rights/Modern Black Freedom Struggle of the 1950’s.  Told through Paula’s memories and as a child, we get a sense of how she imagined Jim Crow laws (as a giant crow that told people what to do) and sympathize with her hunger meltdown when the family isn’t permitted to eat in a restaurant because they are Black.  Uncle Martin, (MLK Jr.), is a close family friend and teaches Paula to swim while they spend the summer taking part in marches and long nights of strategy sessions in Paula’s home.  She remembers their voices like a symphony, weaving in and out of each other to create a melodious discussion about freedom and equal rights.

The family marched from Selma to Montgomery, with Paula and her sisters taking part in the first day of marching before staying at family’s house while their parents carried on marching and protesting with Uncle Martin, registering voters and educating others about nonviolent protest.

Something that’s really special about this book is that the story recounts events that author Paula herself partook in.  It puts such a personal spin on the book, and the reader really feels like we know and are with Paula during these events.  Because of her family’s commitment to justice and community, she truly is a child of the Movement.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Paula Young Shelton is an Early Childhood Educator with nearly 20 years experience teaching and the author of the children’s book, Child of the Civil Rights Movement.  A graduate of Duke University, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in 1983.  She began her teaching career in Gulu, Uganda instructing young teens in English and Religion.  This inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York, which she completed in 1987. Since that time, Ms. Shelton has committed herself to enriching the lives of young children through a multicultural, interactive, child-centered approach to education.  Whether teaching in a rural village in East Africa, the public housing projects of Atlanta, the elite neighborhoods of New York City or the culturally diverse middle class communities of Washington, DC, Ms. Shelton has held fast to the belief that “every child can learn”.

Throughout her teaching career Ms. Shelton has instituted many innovative ideas, including the formation of a pre-first grade for Kindergarten students not yet ready for first grade.  Her own educational experiences at the United Nations International School aided Ms. Shelton in developing a respect and appreciation for all cultures. Her curriculum is designed to reflect the culture and history of the students she teaches in order to build self esteem as well as increase academic success.  Currently, Ms. Shelton is a first grade teacher at Georgetown Day School where she enjoys implementing a dynamic curriculum which consists of a civil rights unit, a study of all kinds of families, including same sex parents, and a social curriculum which emphasizes appreciation for diversity and acceptance of all, as well as a challenging academic program. In addition to teaching, Ms. Shelton has served as an early childhood specialist with the National Black Child Development Institute, where she was responsible for developing and promoting early childhood education, child development materials and programs, such as The Parent Empowerment Project, a parent education curriculum, and Love to Read, a national literacy initiative.  Ms. Shelton has conducted numerous workshops, presentations and training sessions for parents and practitioners. As an author, Ms. Shelton enjoys sharing her book with students, parents and teachers.  Her dramatic reading of the semi-autobiographical account of growing up in the midst of the civil rights movement teaches children about a pivotal time in American history as well as encourages adults to share their stories. Ms. Shelton resides in Washington, DC with her husband, Hilary O. Shelton, who is Director of the Washington Bureau for the NAACP.  They have three extraordinary sons, Caleb Wesley, Aaron Joshua and Noah Ottis.

Raúl Colón is the award-winning illustrator of many picture books, including Draw! an ALA Notable Book and recipient of the International Latino Book Award; Imagine! an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids, and a Bookpage Best Book; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to DanceAngela’s Christmas by Frank McCourt; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

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