Thanksgiving Books for the Modern Classroom: 8 Must Reads for Elementary Students

Thanksgiving Books for the Modern Classroom www.fifthintheforest

Well friends, in case you haven't yet, it's time to rethink the Thanksgiving books we use with students. Gone are the days of pilgrim and Indian stereotypes. Now is the time for actual historical facts and celebrated diversity. If you need some help finding books that fit a modern lens, read on for my suggestions!  


Thank You, Sarah

Thank You, Sarah 
By: Laurie Halse Anderson

'Thank You, Sarah' tells the true story of Sarah Hale, the woman who saved Thanksgiving. Sarah is a fantastic role model for your students. She paved the way for women in the writing and editing world. She also believed in making a day of gratitude into a national holiday. This book tells her story in a fun, interactive way. The illustrations and typography are reminiscent of a graphic novel/comic. Your students will love it!

Sarah Gives Thanks

'Sarah Gives Thanks' tells the same story of Sarah Hale but in a very different way. This book reads more like traditional story-telling and is less interactive. (Compare contrast lesson with these two choices, maybe??). It provides many details and facts about Sarah's life and the origin of our holiday--a great addition to your library!

Molly's Pilgrim

As described in this book, Molly is a "modern day pilgrim" (an immigrant for religious purposes). Molly's and her family are Jewish Russian immigrants and Molly has a hard time fitting in. She faces discrimination at school, language barriers, and cultural differences. But she learns that she is not so different from the pilgrims! This Thanksgiving story provides a HUGE variety of discussion opportunities (immigration, religious persecution, bullying, cultural differences, and the true meaning of Thanksgiving, just to name a few). It is the perfect modern Thanksgiving read!

No Turkey for Thanksgiving

This book also recognizes the diverse ways Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. It can also remind teachers the importance of WORD CHOICE and making assumptions about their students. Tuyet is worried about her Thanksgiving when her teacher calls it "Turkey Day." Tuyet's Vietnamese family eats duck for Thanksgiving and she worries she won't experience a "real" Thanksgiving. But Tuyet (and her whole class) learns that it doesn't matter what you eat for Thanksgiving as long as you celebrate with loved ones. 

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (National Geographic)

Published by National Geographic, you can bet this book has AMAZING pictures and information. This book is considered a "photo essay" and breaks from the traditional "Pilgrim and Indian" storyline. It presents a more balanced, historical version of the 1621 event.

Balloons Over Broadway
Balloons Over Broadway introduces readers to Tony Sarg, the original puppeteer of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This story weaves a great deal of information with beautiful illustrations. Your students will love learning the history behind this traditional parade!

Thanksgiving With Me

This story really speaks to student emotions during the holidays. The main character anxiously awaits the arrival of her family members for Thanksgiving dinner. It is told in a lyrical way and has beautiful illustrations. This could lead to great discussions about family, absent or uninvolved loved ones, and the true spirit of Thanksgiving. 
The Thank You Book By Mo Willems

The Thank You Book
By: Mo Willems

This picture book is not Thanksgiving themed--but would be perfect if you have students that can't/don't celebrate Thanksgiving. You can still discuss thankfulness in a humorous way. Spoiler alert: upper elementary students still love listening to Elephant and Piggie stories!


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