As parents and educators, we want the best for our children. We want them to be happy, to feel the joy of learning, and to live rich lives. Many of us value creativity and innovation, and we admire the great thinkers throughout history. This often leads us to wonder how we might instill similar values in our own children. How do we cultivate independent thought? One way to start is by teaching them about people who have changed the world for the better. Read on for a list of books you might enjoy together. (Click on the book image to go to the book’s page on Amazon)
Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives, by Gene Barretta
Thomas Edison was arguably one of the influential inventors of modern times. Often credited with inventing a refined, marketable version of the incandescent light bulb, he also worked to create batteries, movie cameras, and record players. This book is geared toward elementary children but could be enjoyed by both younger and older students as well.
Darwin and Evolution for Kids, by Kristan Lawson
This multifaceted book covers biographical information related to Darwin beginning with his childhood, but also touches on a variety of content areas including botany, geography, history, and genetics. This book gives information while also detailing 21 fun explorative activities for kids.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House Merlin Mission #10: Monday with a Mad Genius, by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (fact tracker series)
The Magic Tree House series is wildly popular with older primary and elementary aged students. While the original series has elements of history blended with fantasy, the fact tracker series is completely nonfiction. For extra fun, pair this book with Monday with a Mad Genius! Learn all about the fascinating man that was Leonardo da Vinci.
William Shakespeare & the Globe, by Aliki
Beloved author and illustrator Aliki brings us a book to learn about one of the world’s most famous playwrights. Recommended for children in kindergarten through elementary, this book details the life of Shakespeare through the building of the modern Globe. This gorgeous book will entertain kids and the adults who read with them.
Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, by Kay Winters, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
It’s not often that biographies take the time to revel in the childhood of a famous figure. This book does just that, giving kids a chance to relate to one of the greatest political figures in the history of our nation. Parents will love that Abe loved books! The books he read shaped him into the courageous man he became and led him to make decisions that would prove to change the course of history.
Who Was Gandhi? by Dana Meachen Rau, illustrated by Jerry Hoare
Long after his death, Gandhi remains a symbol of peace around the world. Children will learn about his fight against discrimination and attempts to dismantle India’s caste system. This book is part of a large series of popular biographies for kids, so if your family likes Who Was Gandhi? know that there are plenty more to explore!
Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams), by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Frau Isa
Available in hardcover and board book versions, this book appeals to toddlers as much as it does to second graders. Charming illustrations accompany simple yet informative sentences, with the aim to inspire youngsters to break boundaries and follow their dreams.
Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson’s book has received the Coretta Scott King Honor award. It tells the story of an inspired boy who worked his whole life to create a more just and equitable world for all people. This is a tale that clearly illustrates the difference one person can make. We may have to work hard and endure sacrifices, but Mandela persevered and stood firm in his convictions, leaving the world a better place.
What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis, illustrated by Phyllis Hornung
Is your child enamored with math, geometry, and solving problems? This cute book might be just the one for them. Join young Pythagoras as he considers different ways to solve real problems, and how math can be applied to help the process along.
The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin, by Cheryl Harness
Not many people can be expert candle makers, printers, and political activists simultaneously. Introduce your child to the marvelous Ben Franklin with this factual book that is perfect for kids in grades 2-5.
What other famous independent thinkers should be on this list? Happy reading!