Hearing the true stories of important figures throughout history can help inspire, motivate and engage young and mature minds alike. Biographies can be a great way to engage young readers while also teaching them critical lessons about world history, social issues and much more. We’ve chosen biographies that are simple enough for younger children to read and interesting enough to keep older kids intrigued. These books focus on historical figures who will be sure to spark interest even among those children who aren’t necessarily drawn to nonfiction reads.
Author Brad Meltzer said he wanted to tell the story of these ordinary heroes to show how great we could become if we made the decision to be heroes ourselves. Simple and clear writing, colorful illustrations and engaging stories in these books can help inspire conversations about important issues such as women’s rights and racism. This set of four books, one for each of these extraordinary people, is ideal for children ages 5 to 9.
“Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race” is a picture-book edition of the best-selling novel about the four black women who made it possible to put a man on the moon. Vivid artwork alongside compelling text tells the story of these four fantastic women in a way that even younger children can understand. While best suited for 4- to 8-year-olds, older kids will enjoy this story as well. The biography explores the barriers each of these women overcame through perseverance, dignity and brainpower, making it an inspirational tale for any young mind.
“Who Was Walt Disney?” is a longer biography that uses simple prose along with black-and-white illustrations to tell the story of an American icon. It’s 112 pages, making it ideal for kids ages 8 to 12. It’s an especially great option for those kids who love everything Disney but may not have realized Walt Disney was a real person. Consider bringing it along on the car ride or flight to Disney World for entertainment and educational value.
Unlike other people, scientist Eugenie Clark does not think sharks are ugly and scary; she thinks of them as graceful creatures. This fascination with sharks led her to become a prominent female scientist in defiance of her skeptics. Imparting important lessons about wildlife, nature and never giving up, and also touching on issues of women’s rights, “Shark Lady” is a bold story that kids will love. Preschoolers will find it fascinating as you read it out loud and show them the dynamic illustrations, while kindergartners and early grade schoolers can read it on their own. “Shark Lady” has many accolades, which include receiving the Amazon Book of the Month Award and a spot on the New York Times Best-Seller list.
The fully illustrated story of this NBA great in “Stephen Curry: The Children’s Book: The Boy Who Never Gave Up” includes cool facts about his childhood that will immediately engage the interest of any young sports fan. Geared toward children in kindergarten through third grade, it uses simple language and fun illustrations to help remind little ones that even NBA superstars were once kids with the same struggles they are currently dealing with. Seeing how Curry worked hard and kept playing even when people told him he was too short will inspire kids to persevere and follow their dreams.
“Making historical people seem real rather than like unrelated mythical objects creates great biographies that inspire children to do their best and dream big dreams. Nothing gets me more excited than to hear a child describe to me how they can achieve their dreams after reading a biography. It is important to consider the level of detail of the biography and ensure it is developmentally appropriate.”
Our Expert Consultant
Jill Goodwin is an environmental scientist and working mother of one. She and her husband, an archaeologist, reside in Florida and have deep expertise around things outside of the house that you and your child may encounter. From taking their daughter to find reptiles and amphibians in the swamps to testing the chemical impact of the top sunscreens, Jill is here to help you find the best for your child.