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It’s no secret that I’m a complete picture book nerd. I may go back and forth about purchasing something I actually need…. but when it comes to a new picture book… I NEED it. Too often in the upper grades we look past picture books, when in reality they should be some of the first places we look. Simply to hook the class or introduce a topic, picture books work wonders on engagement. Below you will find a few of my very favorite books that highlight a few of our country’s greats. Comment below if I missed one of your favorites, I always love a good book recommendation!
Part of the “Big Word” book series, author Doreen Rappaport and different illustrators make what can only be described as the DREAM TEAM. If the covers weren’t evidence enough, notice how my top recommendations 1-4 are all books of this series. (Seeing how it’s February… you may also be interested in the Frederick Douglas, or Martin Luther King Jr. versions!) Abe’s honest words is a wonderful depiction of his life and experiences. This story does a wonderful job portraying character traits like integrity and honesty. Two traits that should be at the forefront of every classroom discussion.
Doesn’t this cover just make you smile! Probably one of my favorite illustrations to date. I love how the author effortlessly includes many quotes of the rough rider president. This is always a favorite because all though the name Theodore Roosevelt is well known, what he did for the nation and conservation isn’t! Students that love the outdoors, teddy bears, or have experienced sickness will connect with this lively president!
This is another really beautiful story of overcoming self-doubt, rising to the occasion, and believing in yourself. Typically John F. Kennedy is remembered for his charisma and confidence. Not many realize that he encountered many health issues as a child that caused him to lack confidence. What a beautiful connection for a student to make that once they believe in themselves, there is nothing they can’t do. Not even President of the United States is too far out of reach.
I know, I know, Eleanor Roosevelt was not a president…. but in my mind this First Lady needs a special shout out on this day. If ever there was a strong women to make a connection with, Eleanor should be at the top. In her youth you could have described her as more of a wallflower that found her friendships through books. Instead of dancing and socializing with friends, she chose to serve others and teach children in poverty stricken areas. When she became the First Lady, to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her title was simply that a title. Arguably, Eleanor was the first do to something with that title, and her efforts to be an ambassador, civil rights leader, and activist were viewed as quite controversial at the time. If ever there was an example of “being the change you wish to see in the world” it would be Eleanor.
If ever there was a book to make you giggle… It’s this one. Guaranteed to be a class favorite. For many adults Taft will be remembered as the only person to serve as both President of the United States and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Most kids will remember the story about him getting stuck in the tub. It’s debatable whether or not the incident actually happened but this larger than life story is a lot of fun. If you are looking for a light hearted read that guarantees giggles, this is sure to be a favorite.
This is part of the series, “Ordinary People Change the World.” Again because is February you may be interested in the Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, or Jackie Robinson version. If so just click on the link for more info! The idea of these people that we consider heroes, also being just ordinary people, is SUCH an important message. Not to take away from their extraordinary feats of bravery, or selflessness, but to encourage and empower our youth to reach for the same. These stories are very simple, and an easy read. They make the history fun, understandable, and relatable.
A great, and simple biography that follows Abraham Lincoln from childhood, to his presidency and famous Gettysburg address. I also love how the book describes Lincoln’s love for reading and writing and why those skills were/are important. It also includes a simple idea of slavery being wrong, how all men are created equally, and if we know of something that is wrong we must use our voice to stand up to any wrong or injustice. It introduces these complex ideas in a very simple and easy to understand way, which I love and appreciate.
Again I love a book/ story about a President of figure in history. We may recognize the name Franklin Roosevelt, cousin to Teddy Roosevelt, but often we don’t know the history. An absolute incredible story of overcoming obstacles, not letting circumstances define you or what you are capable of. Franklin can be a hero for all, and a wonderful connection to be made for any students that have disabilities. A wonderful story about trying again and again and not giving up.
Love this Caldecott winner. It is as educational as it is interesting. This book is filled with little known facts and fun stories about the first 42 presidents. The illustrations are really fun and feel almost satirical. There really is something in here that every child can find something to connect with. It’s fun to see the different sizes mentioned, upbringing, backgrounds, hobbies, musical abilities, and previous occupations. This is a fun read that is sure to engage it’s readers.
This book will forever be near and dear to my heart. The first time I was introduced to this fun read was in college in my children’s literature class. (Sidenote: This book lends well to creating a fun timeline to go over and arrange after reading.) The story is told in rhyme which always makes my heart sing. The history behind the story is really fascinating, and eye opening. Can you imagine?!?!?! Also, this book puts the well known myth that he had wooden teeth to bed…. Read to find out what his “teeth” was actually made out of!
Great story, and great example of environmental activism. Teddy Roosevelt is known as one of the greatest conservationists, and this is the story where many of his efforts stemmed from. His horseback camping trip with naturalist: John Muir stemmed the idea and need for national parks. The illustrations are really fantastic, this is one of those unknown should be well-known reads.
I LOVE THIS ONE. The tale of two presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and their friendship. I love how this story is told is starts out pointing out just how different and unlikely pals the two would make. They complete contrast each other but also balance one another. This book gives such a fun and tangible feel to history which is hard to do! There are also VITAL lessons and discussions to be had about friendship and how to overcome disagreements. The author’s backstory at the end is the real cherry on top.
Presidents’ Day is after all, actually George Washington’s birthday. It didn’t seem right to not include this fun little read. Did you know the story of the young George Washington and the cherry tree is actually an untrue story, created by someone wanting to illustrate the president’s integrity and need to tell the truth. Love the irony! This story highlights a young George Washington on his 7th birthday. Fun for young readers.
Another sweet book, dear to my heart. I remember seeing Abe Lincoln’s dream for the first time in the public library and needing to read it. The illustrations and bold fonts were so different from anything around it. Did you know that there are several documented stories about Abraham Lincoln’s ghost at the White House??, and that he had dreams that many say predicted his own death. This is a fun, NOT SCARY, story that allude to those accounts. A cute girl on a field trip sees Lincoln’s ghost, and together go on an adventure addressing the current state of the union. This is a sweet heartwarming read with some fun history and stories you should 10000x delve deeper into!
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I hope you enjoy the books listed, I would LOVE to hear from you and what’s your favorite! Nothing brightens my day like being tagged in what you’re doing in your classroom on Instagram! Happy Teaching!