Thanksgiving is a bit of a controversial holiday. There are many, many books and resources on the market to help you teach it to your children, but by and large, those books and resources focus on a mythology rather than the actuality of the English coming to America. How much should we teach our young children about that history?
I have already written a unit study about the History of Thanksgiving, but that unit is geared towards upper elementary/middle school level. If you have a younger child and want to study Thanksgiving, that unit study will most likely be overwhelming. So today I want to share some of my favorite books on the subject of Thanksgiving that I read with my younger children.
Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving – This is a gorgeously illustrated picture book about the history of Squanto and how he came to befriend the Englishmen. What I really appreciate about this book is that it is written from the perspective of Squanto and the author is a Native American. This is one of my 9-year-old’s favorite Thanksgiving books.
These three books above are probably my absolute favorite books to read during Thanksgiving. Each book focuses on what life was like for that particular child – a little girl, a little boy, and an Indian boy. They were all photographed on location at Plimoth Plantation and are just fascinating snippets into what life was like for children at that time. My kids have all loved looking at the pictures in these books and comparing their day with those of children who lived in hundreds of years in the past.
Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving – This book is a great look into the history of how Thanksgiving came to be a national holiday. It is also a great example of how one person can make a big change in society.
A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620 (Dear America Series) – This book is part of the Dear America series and is written in journal format. It is about a little girl who came over on the Mayflower and what happened when the Pilgrims arrived. It is also written by one of my favorite children’s book authors – Kathryn Lasky, so it is a well-written story. This was my oldest daughter’s favorite book when she was around 11 or 12 and it makes a great read aloud with younger children.
Molly’s Pilgrim – I really love this short chapter book for explaining the concept of immigrants – because that is the basis for the holiday of Thanksgiving and the essence of America. Molly is a little girl whose family has just come to America. When her class is told to create a little clothespin pilgrim to decorate the class, most of the children bring in pilgrim men and women who look like the typical 1620’s Pilgrims. But Molly’s mother helps her to create a pilgrim that looks more like her Jewish Russian immigrant family. Especially today – this story is an important one to share with our children.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message – This is not specifically about Thanksgiving, but rather, it is about gratitude and thankfulness. This beautifully illustrated picture book is based on the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude and thankfulness originating from the native tribes in Upstate NY and Canada. This is a lovely picture book to share with your child to learn about Native American culture.
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (I Am American) – This book is actually a little too advanced to read with the average 6 or 7-year-old. However, I’m including it on this list because if you aren’t familiar with the actual history behind the holiday, then this is a great little primer for parents to read and share what you learned with your child. It also has fantastic full-color photographs shot on location at Plimoth Plantation.
I hope that I have given you some ideas for studying Thanksgiving with a younger child! Do you have any favorites that you like to read with your children? Please feel free to share about them in the comments!
See Also: History of Thanksgiving Unit Study
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.