In November I like to spend a little time every couple of days teaching our kids the history of the first Thanksgiving. The story of the Pilgrims is one of courageous people who were rooted in Scripture and great faith. Reading these stories to your kids is a great way to set the mood as you prepare for Thanksgiving day. Help your kids separate fact from fiction by reading The True Thanksgiving Story Book List for Kids.
Video: The True Thanksgiving Story Book List for Kids
Original Historical Documents
As I share history with my kids, I like to remind them to compare what they hear and read with original historical documents. Often, I may even read portions of a document to them or have them complete copywork from some of these pieces of history. These are some of the historical documents that give an accurate account of the Thanksgiving story. These are not the only historical documents of this time period, but they are a great place to start!
Journal of the beginning and proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plymouth in NEW
ENGLAND, by certain English Adventurers both Merchants and others.
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1864
These are not the only historical documents of this time period nor are the books on this list the only historically accurate Thanksgiving books for kids, but they are a great place to start!
The True Thanksgiving Story Book List for Kids
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I am putting these books in order from easiest to most difficult. The first two are books that are for younger readers. The remaining four books are either chapter or audio books. These can be read daily in short readings.
#1 Step Into Reading: The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward
This book is a beginning reader. I read it aloud to my younger children, but I also give it to my budding readers to try to read for themselves. It is short and can be read in one sitting. The book begins the story telling of the religious persecution the pilgrims faced in England. It continues by giving descriptions of the layout of the Mayflower and the harsh conditions on the ship. The story finishes by explaining how the Pilgrims built the colony, how many Pilgrims died in the harsh first winter, the ways that Samoset and Squanto help the Pilgrims celebrated with a thanksgiving feast, and formed a peace treaty that lasted for over 50 years.
#2 The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dagliesh Illustrated by Helen Sewell
This book is a 1955 Caldecott Honor Book. The story is told from the perspective of the Pilgrim children aboard the Mayflower: Giles, Constance, and Damaris Hopkins. This is also a short book with larger print that will be easier for young readers. I usually read this book in sections over a few days. My favorite way to use this book is to read it a couple times to younger kids to help them become familiar with the general Thanksgiving story so they can appreciate more details by further reading we do in the following chapter books.
#3 Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty
This chapter book tells the story of the Pilgrims in three sections: the religious persecution in England, the voyage on the Mayflower, and the colonization of a new land, including the relationship of the Native Americans with the Pilgrims. Author uses quotes from the Pilgrim journals to write this book. This is a great book to read to middle age kids who have already heard the Thanksgiving story a few times. For them, reading Landing of the Pilgrims will fill in more details to the narrative and give further insight to the significance of this event. This book is 150 pages in length with short chapters. When I read it to my kids, I usually read two chapters in one sitting.
#4 Legend of Squanto: An Unknown Hero Who Changed the Course of American History
The Legend of Squanto is an audio drama presentation put out by Focus on the Family Radio production. This dramatization tells the Thanksgiving story from the perspective of Tisquantum (Squanto) of the Patuxet tribe. Squanto experienced the exploitations of English when he was kidnapped by slave traders. He also saw the good will of other Europeans and opportunities for trade and commerce when he was taken in by a Spanish priest and later brought back to his native land.
Once back on his home soil, Squanto became friendly with the Pilgrims during their harsh winter. He taught them how to successfully plant crops in the New World. He also introduced them to Chief Massasoit, acting as a translator and further mediating relationships between Native Americans and Pilgrims. The two groups celebrated a feast of thanksgiving together. Chief Massasoit and Governor John Carver later signed a peace treaty. This peace treaty was kept for over 50 years. This audio drama is 97 minutes in length.
#5 Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims
This is a book that our kids usually listen to via audio book. It is 200 pages (4.5 hours), so it takes a little time to go through it. The fictitious character Rush Revere and his horse Liberty narrate this story to the reader. Together they time travel to the era of the Pilgrims to learn about their experiences by asking them questions in person. One thing that I particularly like about this book is how he includes original historical documents like the Mayflower Compact, maps and several well-known art prints depicting this time period. Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims is very entertaining. I’ve noticed that my boys especially seem to appreciate the boy humor.
Before his death, every year in November Rush Limbaugh would read and share an excellent retelling of the original Thanksgiving story based on the journals of William Bradford. You can listen to it here. About halfway through, he describes the part of the Thanksgiving story that is often left out of many modern American history books. The utter failure of the commune system imposed on the colonists by the companies supporting them financially in England is often an omitted part of the colonial story. He goes on to tell how they shook off the chains of this failing collectivism system when Bradford organized a new plan. He assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage however they pleased. Under the new motivation of free enterprise, the Pilgrim colony began to thrive. (Landing of the Pilgrims, above, also tells this part of the story.)
#6 Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey
Of all the books in this post, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember is hands down my favorite! Barbara Rainey of Family Life Today wrote this book. She designed it to be read aloud. For many years in a row our family has read it after dinner all through the month of November in preparation for Thanksgiving. Here are my favorite aspects of this book.
- The book is written in large and small print interwoven through the text of the whole story. The larger font (30 minutes) is if you want to condense the story for younger listeners. (It is written to flow from one part of the story to the next even though the small print sections are skipped. )The smaller print includes more details for older kids. Reading the large and small print for the full story takes approximately 50 minutes.
- Included in the book are several quotes of the Pilgrims, portions of original historical documents such as the Mayflower Compact and Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, maps, charts, and famous art prints.
- Rainey also gives several side stories, not meant to be read as the main story, but as additional details for a later time. She tells little known facts about the Pilgrim children and Chief Massasoit, shares the origination of feasts, and gives more historical facts about the history of celebrating Thanksgiving through the decades.
- The book lists several passages of Scripture focusing on gratitude.
- Additionally, a CD of instrumental Thanksgiving hymns is included in the back of the book. I play this CD every year the week of Thanksgiving. When my kids hear it played, they’ve told me “it sounds like Thanksgiving.”
This book is a family treasure! It is definitely worth purchasing! I hope your family enjoys it as much as we have in ours!
I hope The True Thanksgiving Story Book List for Kids will give you some inspiration to set the mood for your Thanksgiving celebration! You may also enjoy reading 7 Favorite Thanksgiving Homeschool Read Aloud Books.
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!
This is a great resource! I will look for them at my local library so I can read with my boys.
Thanks so much! Enjoy!
Interesting. Thanks for this list!
You are welcome!
Awesome! Thanks for sharing! We are doing a thanksgiving unit this year!
You are welcome! Oh how fun!
Your blog is jam packed with great educational content for Thanksgiving, it’s so well done. I did not know that Rush Limbaugh had a book on this subject. Thank you
Thank you so much! He actually has several patriotic books that are great history resources. He has one on the American Revolution, Star-Spangled Banner, the Presidents, and others. My kids love his audio books!
Neat list. Will see if our library has these!
Thank you! Enjoy!
Thank you for this list. Great compilation.
You are welcome! Thank you!
Linen and Wildflowers
This is such a great resource. I grew up with a few of these books! 🙂
Thank you! Oh wow, that’s great, it’s amazing how seeing a book from childhood brings back fresh memories!