There are valuable lessons to be learned from studying the great men and women of history. You get to read about courage, determination, creativity, leadership, and so many other positive virtues. Plus, nothing livens up history like getting to know the stories of the real people who lived it.
Here are ten biographies that are great for elementary-age kids. They can be found in the children’s section of your local library, or at Amazon.
And you know, you don’t have to be a homeschooler to encourage your kids to read books like these.
Charles Lindbergh: A Human Hero
by James Cross Giblin
A comprehensive study of the aviator hero, this book pulls no punches in examining Lindbergh’s flawed and sometimes controversial life. It made my son think about how we can put too much faith in our heroes.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The New Deal President
by Brenda Haugen
An informative introduction to one of our greatest presidents. It’s packed with facts about Roosevelt’s life, and how he guided our country through the depression and World War II.
Genius: A Photobiography of Albert Einstein
by Marfe Ferguson Delano
An eye-opening book for all ages that is beautifully put together by National Geographic. It has stunning photos of Einstein from throughout his life, but also serves up explanations of his accomplishments and theories that anyone can understand. Even me.
Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster: The Discovery of the Smallpox Vaccine
by Albert Marrin
This book tells two stories. One is the horrible history of the smallpox virus. The second is the biography of Edward Jenner, an 18th-century English surgeon who developed the smallpox vaccine. Amazing history AND science, all in one!
Marie Curie: A Brilliant Life
by Elizabeth MacLeod
The story of the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, Marie Curie was certainly one of the most important women of the 20th century. Another easy-to-understand blend of biography with science, this book helped my son to see how important scientific research is, and how Curie’s discoveries are still being used today.
Who Were the Beatles?
by Geoff Edgers
My kids have been listening to the music of The Beatles since the day they were born, so it was only natural that my son would want to learn a little bit about the lives of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. This book tells about their childhoods in Liverpool, how they met and formed the band, and how the four of them changed the world.
Onward: A Photobiography of African-American Polar Explorer Matthew Henson
by Dolores Johnson
Another stunning biography from National Geographic, this one covers the life of African-American explorer Matthew Henson, who was denied the honors and recognition that he deserved in 1909 simply because of the color of his skin. As with the Einstein biography, this book is beautifully published with amazing photos of Henson at the North Pole.
To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers
by Wendie C. Old
Orville and Wilbur Wright overcame many problems in their quest to fly, but they never gave up. They never stopped thinking and creating. That’s a lesson I teach my own kids every single day.
The Boy on Fairfield Street
by Kathleen Krull
This book focuses on the childhood of Theodore Geisel, a “doodler and dreamer” who grew up to become Dr. Seuss. It talks about not only his love for animals and his wild imagination, but also about the difficult times he had in his young life and how he overcame them. A great story for any kid who might view the world in a slightly different way.
Gertrude Chandler Warner and the Boxcar Children
by Mary Ellen Ellsworth
The first chapter books my son picked up back in first grade were The Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I think he’s read at least fifty of them over the years. He was quite pleased to find a biography that revealed how she created and published her famous series. I’m a big fan of anything that reinforces the importance of reading and writing in childhood.
Have fun at the library! And if you know of any good biographies for children, let me know.