By Chrysta Naron
It’s time for the Fourth of July. A day of flags, picnics, parades, fireworks, and, now, books! After all, what better way to introduce your child to the significance of this holiday and what it means to you than through the written word?
This list of picture books for the Fourth of July gives families the opportunity to explore different ways people love America and a variety of American experiences. Granted, we’re certified book lovers, but we think these books will light up bedtime as much as fireworks!
This is my all-time favorite book for Independence Day. (In fact, we have a Fourth of July firework craft that you can do as a story time activity paired with this book.) It’s the Fourth of July and a young girl has to help work in her parents’ store. Convinced that her Chinese immigrant parents aren’t being American enough, she becomes downcast as parades and celebrations go on in other parts of town. But as the day turns into evening, she learns that there is no one right way to be American and no one way to celebrate the Fourth.
A simple story that plays with words by using repeating language and words that have the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings, this book examines all the ways the themes of the American flag can be seen in various aspects of American life. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson (so you know it’s gorgeous), this book hits you with feelings of love and pride. A must-have for this holiday.
This whimsical illustrated book explains the preamble of the Constitution for kids. Thanks to a glossary, actual text from the preamble, and great visual storytelling (including a very silly dog), your children will begin to understand the document that founded our nation.
This book is by painter and quilt artist Faith Ringgold. This book speaks in an honest and meaningful way about the people who live in the United States and how we all came to be here. From Native Americans having a presence here for thousands of years to slavery to modern-day immigrants, people who live in the U.S. all want similar things—freedom, safety, and love. It’s a book that leads to questions, empathy, and a new understanding of the huge array of cultures and experiences that make up our country.
Grab a flashlight! Fun and interactive, Wonders of the USA takes kids on adventures through national monuments like Mount Rushmore, beautiful landscapes like the Grand Canyon, and celebrations like Mardi Gras. Shine a flashlight through the back of each page and see more details and surprises about each location. Packed with tons of facts and illustrated by Bee Johnson (one of my top-10 favorite illustrators), this book will have your whole family packing up the car for a cross-country roadtrip!
Woody Guthrie’s classic song about America is beautifully illustrated in this book. Like generations of teachers of young children, I love to play the song “This Land is Your Land” for my students while showing them the pages from the book. Then we learn to sing the song together. If you’re looking for a multimedia Fourth of July story time, this book is a great way to do it!
This book is a trilingual love letter to America in English, Spanish, and Creole. But more than saying “I love you, America,” this book also asks the question, “America, do you love me?” It’s a poignant reminder that the country is not a perfect place for black and brown children. And that though these children love America, our country needs to do better to love them back.
President Barack Obama has written a lovely children’s book for his daughters. He discusses the ways he loves and views them, and tells the stories of other people who’ve shared the characteristics he sees in them. People like Cesar Chavez, George Washington, and Billie Holiday. Of Thee I Sing lets children know that every person in America has something to contribute to make this country better every day.
I love this book for many reasons. For starters, each page is illustrated by a different artist, so you get 14 different illustrators in one book! The artists come from a large range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, so the volume truly shows America as the complex and beautiful country it is. There’s also a board-book version for toddlers, called America: A Book of Opposites, which is bilingual (Spanish/English). Everyone can get in on the experience!
Teaching our children about the Fourth of July is important. It’s so much more than just a single day when a document was signed. It is the neighborhoods we create, the schools we attend, the relationships we build, and the love we share. This year, may your family celebrate those beautiful parts of America with a good book, and hopefully a slice of apple pie.
Are there books you love for the Fourth of July? What stories do you use to share your vision of America with your children?
Chrysta Naron is an early childhood educator and curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, who believes everything is better with glitter! Read more from her at www.playfulprek.com.
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