Historical Literature Resources for Elementary and Middle Grades

Annotated bibliographies of both recommended biographies and literature about American history. Includes guidelines for critically analyzing biographies and history-based literature.

About this Resource

Grade Level
Curricular Resource Type
Resource Guides / Packets
Curricular Resource Subject Area
English Language Arts
US History
World History
Curricular Resource Topic
Arts & Culture
Biographical Resources
Civil Rights
International Relations
Curricular Standards
Common Core
C3 Framework for Social Studies
National History Standards (UCLA)
National Council of Teachers of English
Massachusetts Framework - English Language Arts
Massachusetts Framework - History and Social Science

The Education Department at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum created these teaching resources for History Makers, a professional development program for third- and fifth- grade teachers in Boston Public Schools. Inspired by the book History Makers: A Questioning Approach to Reading and Writing Biographies by Myra Zarnowski, this semester-long seminar immerses teachers in the study of biography for young learners. Participants learn to guide their students to think as historians; to ask questions about what they're reading; and to think critically about the content as they write about their research. History Makers is presented in partnership with Boston Public Schools and is supported by a U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History Grant.

National History Standards The books listed in the bibliographies have content related to the following eras in United States History:

Era 2: Colonization and Settlement (1585 – 1763); Era 3: Revolution and the New Nation (1754 – 1820s); Era 4: Expansion and Reform (1801 – 1861); Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 – 1877); Era 6: The Development of the Industrial United States (1870 – 1900); Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890 – 1930); Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929 – 1945); Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s); Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present) 

Biographies in American History: Annotated Bibliographies for Elementary and Middle Grades 

The Colonial Era (pdf) 

The Revolutionary Era (pdf) 

The 19th Century (pdf) 

The 20th Century (pdf) 

Biographies in Massachusetts History (pdf) 

Recommended Biographies with publication dates from 2007 to 2009 (pdf)

Annotated bibliography created for Voices from the Past, a Teaching American History seminar

Children's Literature Featuring Letters, Diaries, and Journals

Annotated bibliographies created for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum annual children's literature conference:

One Country, Many Voices: Cultural Connections to Our History, Gr. 3 -5 (pdf) 

One Country, Many Voices: Cultural Connections to Our History, Gr. 6 -8 (pdf) 

Reading, Writing, and History: Bringing Great Historical Literature into the Classroom (pdf)

Books as Passports to the World (pdf)

Science, Technology, and Environmental Protection (pdf)

Civil Rights Era (pdf)

Books for Young Readers about Hope, Courage and Resilience in Challenging Times (pdf)

History-Related Books about Artists and the Arts for Young Readers (pdf)

Strength and Struggle in Challenging Times: New and Noteworthy Biographies For Young Readers

Dignity and Justice for All: Stories of Protest, Resistance and Change

Additional resources on children's literature

Resources for selecting and evaluating nonfiction books

Evaluating Biographies and Nonfiction Books for Elementary and Middle Grades (pdf) 

Student Handout: What to Look for When You Read a Biography (pdf) 

Criteria adapted from the Orbis Pictus Nonfiction Award (pdf) 

Professional Journals and Children’s Book Awards (pdf)