The supplemental book list for the Core Knowledge U.S. History curriculum is excellent! These non-fiction books are typically called “living books” in homeschooling circles. “Living books” are a valuable piece of the education process because they are particularly engaging and tend to draw the student in, encouraging them to learn more about the subject and dive deep into the richness of the topic. The original supplemental reading list can be found on pages 12-13 of the Teachers Guide for the Grade 7 Core Knowledge U.S. History Curriculum. My goal here is to break up the list to make it easier for you to use.
Tips for Using the U.S. History Book List
- Have your student spend 10-20 minutes reading independently from this book list each school day. If you are using the Daily Schedule, independent reading time is specifically scheduled most school days but you should feel free to fit in more as you are able.
- Don’t worry about your student reading every book. Figure out at the beginning of the year which books you can reasonably obtain. For example, does your library have copies? Does your budget allow purchasing used copies? Or new copies? Keep in mind you’ll typically need to request library books 7-10 days in advance so planning ahead and staying organized is important.
- Be realistic in your expectations–middle school students vary wildly in their independent reading speed–a typical student will only be able to read ~8-12 books during the school year. Faster readers may be able to cover more ground. Remember they can also read over the summer too–it’s a great way to reinforce what was learned during the school year.
- While practicing and improving independent reading skills is a priority at this age, if your student struggles with independent reading, these titles can be used as read alouds for you and the student or maybe to read as a family in the evenings. Many of the titles are also available in audio book format. Audible.com has a number of them available for purchase but your local library likely has an audio book digital lending system available as well.
- Have your student read the books in more-or-less chronological order but do not worry about lining up the books with the topics the student is currently studying in the text book. Occasionally there are multiple books listed for the same general topic. You can use your judgement whether it makes sense for your student to read more than one of them.
- Some of the books cover a single topic or event, while others tackle American History from a particular point of view or theme. Consider having your student read the single topic books during the school year and the compilation books over the summer or vice versa.
Single Topic or Event Books
Below are the shorter single topic or event books arranged in chronological order to help you stay organized with acquiring the books as your student needs them during the school year.
- Yellowhorn, Eldon, and Kathy Lowinger. Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People. Toronto: Annick Press, 2017.
- Mann, Charles C. 1493 for Young People: From Columbus’s Voyage to Globalization. Adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. Salem, OR: Triangle Square Press, 2016.
- Orgill, Roxane. Siege: How General Washington Kicked the British out of Boston and Launched a Revolution. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2018.
- Woelfle, Gretchen. Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. New York: Calkins Creek, 2016.
- Dunbar, Erica Armstrong, and Kathleen Van Cleve. Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away—Young Readers Edition. New York: Aladdin, 2020.
- Davis, Kenneth C. In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. New York: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2019.
- Dunbar, Erica Armstrong. She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman. New York: 37 Ink, 2019.
- Lowe, Mifflin. Women Sharpshooters, Native American Rodeo Stars, Pioneering Vaqueros, and the Unsung Explorers, Builders, and Heroes Who Shaped the American West. Illustrated by William Luong. Charlotte, NC: Baker & Taylor, 2020.
- Wagner, Tricia Martineau. Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, and Little-Known Stories From History. Guilford, CT: TwoDot Books, 2010.
- Shepard, Ray Anthony. Now or Never! 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery. New York: Calkins Creek, 2017.
- Sandler, Martin W. Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015.
- Zimet, Susan, and Todd Hasak-Lowy. Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote. New York: Puffin Books, 2020.
- Favreau, Marc. Crash: The Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018.
- Mullenbach, Cheryl. The Great Depression for Kids: Hardship and Hope in 1930s America. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2015.
- Weatherford, Carole Boston. You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen. Illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017.
- Brimner, Larry Dane. Blacklisted! Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment. New York: Calkins Creek, 2018.
- Brill, Marlene Targ. Dolores Huerta Stands Strong: The Women Who Demanded Justice. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2018.
- Brimner, Larry Dane. Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961. New York: Calkins Creek, 2017.
- Schwarz, Heather E. Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protestors at the Leesburg Stockage. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2017.
- Lowery, Lynda Blackmon, Elspeth Leacock, and Susan Buckley. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March. Illustrated by PJ Loughran. New York: Speak, 2016.
- Bausum, Ann. The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Kids, 2017.
- Murphy, Claire Rudolf. Martin and Bobby: A Journey Toward Justice. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2018.
- Brimner, Larry Dane. Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights. New York: Calkins Creek, 2014.
- Freedman, Russell. Vietnam: A History of the War. New York: Holiday House, 2019.
- Bausum, Ann. Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights. New York: Speak, 2016.
- Rocco, John. How We Got to the Moon. New York: Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020.
- Sheinkin, Steven. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. New York: Square Fish, 2019.
- Balis, Andrea, and Elizabeth Levy. Bringing Down a President: The Watergate Scandal. Illustrated by Tim Foley. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2019.
American History Overview Books
These books approach U.S. History using a particular theme or perspective. They are excellent for helping students view historical events through a different lens. Many of these titles are a bit longer and more dense than the event-specific books above. This set of books may be most beneficial when read over the summer as a way to reinforce what the student learned during the school year, but from a different angle.
- Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People. Adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese. Boston: Beacon Press, 2019.
- Reynolds, Jason, and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020.
- Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America. Adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. Salem, OR: Triangle Square Press, 2012.
- Zinn, Howard. A Young People’s History of the United States: Columbus to the War on Terror. Adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. Salem, OR: Triangle Square Press, 2009.
- Easton, Emily. Enough! 20 Protestors Who Changed America. Illustrated by Ziyue Chen. New York: Random House Children’s Books, 2018.
- Engle, Margarita. Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems. Illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez. New York: Henry Holt, 2019.
- Foster, Jeff. For Which We Stand: How Our Government Works and Why It Matters. Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin. New York: Scholastic, 2020.
- Lewis, Aura, and Evan Sargent. We the People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained. Illustrated by Aura Lewis. London: Wide Eyed Editions, 2020.
- Osborne, Linda Barrett. This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2016.
- Steinmetz, Kay. Awesome America. New York: TIME for Kids, 2016.
A Note for Veteran Homeschoolers
If you’ve been homeschooling for awhile, you may be asking yourself why you shouldn’t just use these overview books throughout the school year by lining up individual chapters with specific events in the textbook. I would encourage you not to attempt this for several reasons:
First, it’s a mess. Believe me, I initially tried to lay them out that way for my own child last year. I’ve been organizing curriculum for a decade and I think I’m pretty good at it–but I still failed miserably. In this particular situation, it’s simply too easy to lose your rhythm with the core text book and get behind.
Second, most families will not be able to obtain every book on the list. It is unlikely your library has every book and purchasing all of them requires a significant budget. When I laid out the daily schedule I wanted to remove as much stress for you as possible and to schedule them all would require you to adjust the schedule manually depending on what books you can get.
After using this curriculum with my then 7th grade child last year, I can confidently report that it worked really well to focus on the engaging single-event books during the school year as a way for her to dive deeper into topics. The single-event book list is well curated–most of the books approach topics from the perspective of someone who is not typically represented by a standard telling of American History.
Maximum benefit from the overview books can then be gleaned by reading them over the summer as your student will already have that broad overview of American History knowledge to draw from as they make connections and consider the events from different angles.
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