We’re planning our annual outing to the big park in town on the Fourth of July. It’s one of my family’s favorite events of the year! I thought I’d take along a few books for the kids to enjoy during the hottest part of the afternoon, and I’m always up for a read aloud or two (or three).
I’ve mentioned most of these books before. Our collection is always growing, though, requiring a new “Favorite Reads for the 4th”. There’s still plenty of time to look for these in your local library, or to order them to add to your own home Heritage Library.
The Fourth of July Storyby Alice Dagliesh is our all time favorite for the 4th! It’s more than a picture book, but it’s a great read aloud for kids about five or so and up. Marie Nonnast’s illustrations are charming and fit the time period accurately. The author gives us a brief history of how the original thirteen colonies began and why those original colonies found it necessary to declare their independence from England.
When Aaron walked by and saw this book on my stack, he said, “That used to be my very favorite book. Rats with popguns! It was great!”. I remember that he often had Yankee Doodle, by Gary Chalk, in his hands when he was a little boy. And what’s not to like? Based on the classic children’s song “Yankee Doodle”, Chalk does a superb job of telling the tale of the Revolutionary War in his own wonderful rhyming version of the song. Published by DK, each page uses their well known formula of adding snippets of additional information for the older or more inquisitive reader, while keeping a simple, rhyming text for the youngest listeners. The illustrations are colorful and the soldiers are small animals bearing popguns and riding hobby horses. It’s just a delightful book! All ages.
Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags: The Story of the Fourth of July Symbols, by James Cross Giblin is a fun book. The author begins with a brief introduction to the history of Independence Day, and to the holiday itself, before examining some of the symbols that we correlate with the 4th of July. Our flag, fireworks, picnics, music and songs, Uncle Sam and several other symbols and traditions of the day are each given their own chapter to tell their story. A fine read aloud, a chapter at a time, to younger children, or perfect independent reading for about ages 9 and up. This edition includes several fun 4th of July activities, too!
I grew up hearing Kate Smith’s wonderful singing of “God Bless America” and knew the words by heart when I was quite young. This beautiful picture book, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, makes that wonderful song by Irving Berlin available to a whole new generation. Each two page spread has the text of just one short phrase of that beloved American song, along with beautiful, colorful illustrations of a bear family celebrating America in the mountains, prairies and by the ocean white with foam. A quick read aloud, this book will be enjoyed by even the youngest listener and enjoyed by older readers as well. My hard cover copy includes a CD recorded by Barbra Streisand. It’s good. I just wish it were Kate Smith!
I absolutely love Sam Fink’s remarkable Declaration Of Independence. Fink gives us the entire Declaration of Independence, inscribed in short phrases which are lavishly, though whimsically, illustrated throughout the book. I want my children to know that they can count on history when it is learned from source documents. It’s an added bonus when the book giving them those source documents is a pleasure to read. This volume gives even your younger children exposure to a source document in a form that they will enjoy. Suitable for all ages!
I’m including George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sidesin my list for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a good look at the two men, both named George, who led their countries during the American Revolution. The text is excellent, the illustrations colorful and detailed, and the book will keep the reader’s attention. Second, it’s far too easy for us to consider the men leading the colonies and England as either “the good guy” or “the bad guy”. It’s good to remember that there were those on either side of the conflict who might have held a far less popular opinion of their own leader and might have been more in favor of the other guy. Rosalyn Schanzer has done a fine job of giving us both sides of the story. Suitable for about ages 9 and up.
While Words That Built a Nation: A Young Person’s Collection of Historic American Documents. is not your typical 4th of July book, this Scholastic publication includes the complete text to thirty-seven source documents considered important to American history, including the Declaration of Independence. Beginning with the Mayflower Compact and continuing through to Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address, Words that Built a Nation includes a lot of good information. We keep this book handy for quick reference to important historical documents. A great addition to any family or homeschool library. Please note: I have not read all of the notes, written by author Marilyn Miller, that accompany the source documents in this book.
Russell Freedman’s Give Me Liberty: The Story of the Declaration of Independence is a look at the time period leading up to Independence Day, the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the impact of that document. Written for middle grades, I’d say about 5th grade and up, it’s a good basic look at the Declaration of Independence. Suitable for older readers who want a quick history, too.
For the older readers in your home, David McCullough’s 1776would be a great summer read! McCullough, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has become a favorite in my home for his well written biographies and exciting accounts of history. I’ve loved every book by McCullough I’ve ever read. I plan to pull this one off the shelf and bump it to the top of my own reading queue.
I hope you’ll enjoy some of these 4th of July stories in your own home this summer.