One of the greatest contributions to children's literature in the 20th century has been numerous history series. Biographies, memoirs, historical fiction, original sources, all serve to make history come alive for students of all ages. Could it be that the lack of knowledge and interest in history during our post-modern times stems from the lack of reading gripping tales of heroes and heroines of history? In order to remedy that, add some of these treasures to your family's reading list. This lengthy list demonstrates that past generations understood the importance of knowing from whence we came.
Landmark history titles - This series is the gold standard for children's history series. Over 200 titles are in this series, written by some of the best authors of children's literature. They focus on people and events that have shaped history. A history professor acquaintance of ours said that if a child read all the Landmark books, he would have an excellent history education. A few of the titles have been reprinted in paperback. More information and titles can be found at Valerie's helpful site. Written for grades 3-8
Signature biographies - Signature biographies are similar in length to the Landmark books. Also written by wonderful authors of the time, they focus on lives of people throughout history. Each title begins with The Story of...
Piper biographies - Another excellent biography series for middle grades focusing mainly on American historical figures.
Garrard Discovery Biographies - This is my favorite biography series for younger readers. Very well written. I've learned so much for them myself. There is also a World Explorers series and an American Indian series.
We Were There series - This series is a favorite in my library. The stories are told through the eyes of fictional children but the stories themselves are accurate. Each title has both an author and a historical consultant for accuracy. Very exciting! I see that some titles have been reprinted.
North Star series - Yet another series written with the purpose of engaging middle readers. Sterling North edited this series of around 40 titles covering mainly American history.
Frontiers of America - This is a favorite series of my boys from a few years ago. Excellent for younger students, they relate exciting times in our country's history. The title, Log Fort Adventures, is especially endearing to me. My youngest son, adopted from China at the age of 6, was learning English, and narration was coming very slowly. This book was so very exciting to him that he gave a very lengthy, detailed and animated narration for the first time!
Childhood of Famous Americans - This popular series of American biographies for young students is still very much in demand after many decades. Children enjoy reading about the upbringing of their favorite historical heroes and heroines. This series has been printed in many different bindings including the current red, white and blue paperback covers.
Winston Adventures - We've really enjoyed the titles we've read from this series. What I appreciate is that these books focus on lesser known events of history in an exciting, narrative way. Written for middle grades.
Step-Up Books - I listed this series in the science post as well, but there are many history titles to be enjoyed. These are excellent for younger readers with large type and nice illustrations. Note that some of these have been reprinted as "Landmark books". They are NOT in the Landmark series, but are reprints of Step-Up Books. Many of these can be found reasonably priced in the nice old hardcovers. I would invest in these rather than the newer, cheaply bound, paperbacks.
American Adventures - This wonderful older series, published mainly in the 50's, is not to be confused with the newer series of the same name. These books are full of adventures for younger to middle readers. Some titles in the is series are pricey and hard to find so snatch them up if you come upon one.
Colonial Americans - This series, by Leonard Everett Fisher, focuses on the trades of the colonies such as printers, tanners, weavers, and more.
Cornerstones of Freedom - This series fills a particular niche in my library. While these slim titles are not always as engaging as many of the other series listed here, they do fill a need for an overview of a particular event or person without spending a great deal of time. The series includes lesser known events as well. In recent years, other titles have been added and printed in paperback. I don't know the slant of these new titles so read with discernment.
How They Lived - This series for younger to middle readers focuses on the lives of the men and women who made our land great.
"I Can Read" History - This is a wonderful series for beginning readers. Young children love to be included in the family history studies with books they can read themselves. This series fits the bill perfectly.
Land of the Free series - This unique series focuses on the contributions of various ethnic groups in America. They are well-researched and engaging. I don't own many of these titles but wanted to bring them to your attention if you come across them.
Messner biographies - This is a massive series for older readers and is valuable, not only because the writing is excellent by some of the best authors of the time, but because it contains biographies of figures not found anywhere else.
Sower series - This series focuses on the Christian beliefs and influences of famous people.
Trailblazer Books - This popular newer series for middle readers focuses on Christian heroes and missionaries.
If You Lived...series - This series for younger students focuses on how life was during various times of American history. Children can see what their lives might have been like if they had been born in another time.
A Picturesque Tale of Progress by Olive Beaupre' Miller is an outstanding set of 9 volumes relating the flow of history. Originally published in 1929, it has been released in various forms and number of volumes. In my opinion, the most stunning set is the one I've linked here, which is the one I own and treasure. You may recognize the name of Mrs. Miller as the editor of the beloved My Book House set (each of my boys has a set of these fine books.) Mrs. Miller was grieved by the fact that she was never taught to love history as a child because of the "dry collection of dates, a jumbled memory of many apparently meaningless wars, and a fragmentary, disconnected knowledge of a very few periods in history." She set about writing this set "to bring history to life for children, to present to them a fascinating historical panorama, to let them travel up the path of time with the men and women who had made history."