On Friday, May 10, fifth graders from Manhattan Country School, Central Park East II and Children’s Workshop School, presented the MLK Living the Dream Book Award to Lina Maslo, author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala in a ceremony at Manhattan Country School. The “Living the Dream” Book Award culminates a yearlong private/public school partnership, initiated by MCS in 1990. The award is presented to a children’s picture book that embodies the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Students write their own criteria for the award: a main character fighting for equal rights, a meaningful message relating to what Dr. King fought for or what he would fight for today, and expressive illustrations. They measure several children’s books against the criteria, debate the merits of the final selections, and choose the award-winning book. Throughout the process, each student will participate in active discussions with a mixture of children from each school. Themes of racial and social justice, LGBTQ rights, advocacy and inequality are an important part of the focus of these talks. This process not only exposes students to use their voices to express their opinions and insights, but also allows them space to grow as writers, readers and listeners.
This year’s honoree, Free as a Bird, is based on the life of Malala Yousafzai, human rights activist and the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. When Malala Yousafzai was born, some people shook their heads because girls were considered bad luck. But her father looked into her eyes and knew she could do anything. In Pakistan, some believed girls should not be educated. But Malala and her father were not afraid. She secretly went to school and spoke up for education in her country. And even though an enemy tried to silence her powerful voice, she would not keep quiet. Malala now travels around the world to speak to girls and boys, to teachers, reporters, presidents, and queens—to anyone who will listen—and advocates for the right to education and equality of opportunity for every person.
The Book Award is a project of MCS’s Public Outreach program, in collaboration with Central Park East II and Children’s Workshop School, both NYC public schools and is an example of our commitment to equality and social justice.