Carolyn Penner spent her entire adult working life as an elementary school librarian, which made what she did as a volunteer Monday natural.
At 9:30 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Penner read a book for a special storytime at Newton Public Library.
She chose the book "My Brother Martin" by Christine King Farris, the older sister of the late Dr. King, and illustrator Chris Soentpiet.
"You have heard about Martin Luther King for years and years," Penner said while introducing the book. "You know his story and the change he was able to make in America and for many people. We often do not think about Martin Luther King being a kid."
Long before he became a world-famous dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr. was a little boy who played jokes and practiced the piano and made friends without considering race. But growing up in the segregated South of the 1920s forced a very young Martin to learn a bitter lesson — little white children and little black children were not to play with one another. Martin decided then and there that something had to be done. And as a 7-year-old, he embarked on a journey that would change the course of American history.
"The artist worked with family members and took photographs to create the illustrations," Penner said.
Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day to observe the life and service of the civil rights activist. On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Hall, of Indiana, to create a federal holiday honoring King. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 20, 2020, marked the 25th anniversary of The Corporation for National and Community Service day of service.
It was also the second day of service organized by the Newton Community for Racial Justice.
"I like the idea of community service and bringing people together," said Andrea Regier, one of the project organizers.
Projects were at New Jerusalem Missions, Carriage Factory Art Gallery, Newton Public Library, Offender Victim Ministries and Norm’s Coffee Bar.
Bethel College hosted an observance later in the day. After music and welcomes, Michelle Vann, of Wichita, spoke in Memorial Hall — a stage that once featured King.