There’s nothing better than listening to your teacher read a book about the historical event/time period you’re learning about in class! I have been an upper elementary teacher for my entire teaching career (12 years) and in that time I’ve collected many amazing books that I read to my students throughout the year. In this blog post, I’m going to share the very best books that I read aloud in social studies class.
My preference is to use picture books as read alouds. Chapter books are amazing and have their place but I am a departmentalized teacher and time is short. There is not much time to read pieces of a chapter book to each class daily. Even as an adult, when I attend a workshop or teacher meeting and someone reads a picture book to me, I really enjoy it. I know my students love being read to and the pictures help them to engage more with the historical event.
I would like to point out that all of these books are available at your school or public library to check out. You might also find these books at thrift stores or library sales for a low cost. I am the type that likes to have the book in my closet so that I can pull it out whenever I want. I am not affiliated with any of these authors or publishers but I did create affiliate links so that you can easily see the covers of each of these books and their prices on Amazon. If you make a purchase from one of my affiliate links, I receive a small percentage to help in the maintenance of my blog. Thanks for your support and enjoy!
Early Exploration and Settlement
By Jane Yolen
This book is actually about Columbus and his encounter with the Taino Indians. Although this story doesn’t fit within the date range of my curriculum, I use it to set the scene for the early settlement of the colonies. The story is told from the perspective of a young Taino boy who has a bad premonition about the strangers who have come to his land. No one listens to him, unfortunately, because they want the gifts that the strangers have to offer. This story is a great way to launch a discussion about the effects that settlement in the colonies had on Native Americans.
Indentured Servants and Early Settlement
By Alice McGill
This touching story follows Molly’s life from her days as a dairy maid in England through her conviction for the terrible crime of spilling milk to her days as an indentured servant in the colony of Maryland. Molly finishes her indenture contract and starts her own tobacco farm where she marries her newly-freed slave. Her grandson becomes an important person in our nation’s history, Benjamin Banneker. My students always ask me to read this book again!
Sarah Morton’s Day
By Kate Waters
This book uses photographs to lead readers through the daily life of a Pilgrim girl, Sarah. With my students, we create a timeline showing the order of Sarah’s day. They are always amazed at the requirements placed on Pilgrim children.
Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak
By Kay Winters
This book follows an errand boy through Boston as the colonial unrest is growing. This is not a traditional read-aloud. This book provides the viewpoints of many different types of colonial people, like the printer, tavern keeper, shoemaker, etc. I usually read several of the viewpoints aloud and then make a photocopy of the others for students to compare/contrast in small groups.
American Revolution – Teaching about the contributions of women
Independence Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution
By Laurie Halse Anderson
I love this book because it has a main read aloud story and it also has little side stories that students can examine later. The contributions of women are often glossed over in history, so this book is a great way to open the discussion about the things that women did to help the Patriot cause.
George Washington’s Teeth
By Deborah Chandra
This fun, rhyming book recounts some of George Washington’s struggles with his teeth. Some of the situations are made up for humor but I use this book to launch into a discussion of the myths surrounding George’s teeth. I take students to the Mount Vernon website page that discusses his teeth.
American Revolution – Teaching about Spies
The Scarlet Stockings Spy
By Trinka Hakes Noble
I LOVE this book! I dare you not to get a little misty-eyed at the end of this book! A young girl living in the midst of the American Revolution watches the ship movements of the British and uses her clothesline to pass messages to her brother, a Continental soldier stationed nearby. I also do a STEM project with my students after reading this fantastic book!
American Revolution – A Funny Take on our Founding Fathers
John, Paul, George, & Ben
By Lane Smith
This book is absolutely hilarious! This genius author uses the traits of our Founding Fathers to create an engaging story. Your students will laugh and learn something, guaranteed!
Preamble to the Constitution
We the Kids
By David Catrow
This simple book takes the pieces of the Preamble and illustrates them beautifully. When I read this book to my students, I show one picture at a time. We talk about that part of the Preamble, what it means, and how the illustration relates to that part of the Preamble.
Abe’s Honest Words
By Doreen Rappaport
This book is beautifully illustrated and tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life from childhood on. The author employs many of Lincoln’s quotes throughout the book. I usually take one quote per day, write it on the board, and ask students to write a paragraph explaining what that quote means to them.
Henry’s Freedom Box
By Ellen Levine
This is the amazing story of Henry “Box” Brown, a runaway slave who mailed himself to freedom. This story is touching, beautifully illustrated, and definitely a student favorite.
Slave/Native American Interactions
Crossing Bok Chitto
By Tim Tingle
This award-winning book tells the story of Choctaw Indians helping a runaway slave family to escape.
I sincerely hope you found some great books to read to your class to enhance your social studies instruction! If you have another book that is excellent to use in social studies class, please leave a comment!