Completing our three year cycle, here are the books I purchased this year for our first foray into modern times.

Please don’t assume just because a book is in our home that it will necessarily be a good fit in your home. Use your own discernment when it comes to books for your family. Every family’s tolerances and tastes differ, and mine are more laissez-faire than many. I buy no twaddle, and the books I get come recommended from good sources, but I don’t read every one and I believe in broad and wide reading.

Modern History Books for Elementary Students

Modern history cycle books for elementary readers

This list does not include the many great picture books on American history we have. This list is geared for independent reading for children 8-12 years old. None of these are assigned reading in our house, just “strewn” reading.

This isn’t actually a list of all the best elementary books for the modern era; this is the list of the books we have and my boys have read. So it’s limited by what I was able to obtain used on Amazon, at library sales, or by hand-me-down from my parents.

Because so much kid-lit is already set in the modern time, I didn’t specifically seek any out in that category this year. There are simply so many that it’s hard to put them into a list, and they are also so easy to come by that I doubt you need a list from me.

Books We’re Reading Aloud Together During Elementary Lesson Time

These are the books I’ve picked as more of the “official” history books we’ll read slowly together (with abridgment, since I’m doing a 3-year-cycle and covering a lot this year).

Story of the World - M. B. Synge Collection - Exodus Books

Additionally, we usually listen to the audio books of Story of the World each year either during lunch or during sick weeks or in the car (or combinations of these and others).

Straight History

In the order that I found them on the shelves…

Plus as many Landmark books on the modern era as I could find used & cheap. Many in our large collection of used Eyewitness Books also cover modern times.

I don’t mind if they browse these books, picking them up here and there and reading what interests them. How and when and even if they read these books is up to them. These are options out there for them so there is material when whim strikes. Do not underestimate the importance or impact of reading something on whim.


Plus as many Signature Books biographies as I can find for $5 or less used when I’m school book buying. Some we have are The Story of Good Queen Bess, The Story of Lafayette, and Florence Nightingale.

Over the years, I’ve also collected about 20 Childhood of Famous Americans books, which are great for kids just past the fluency stage of reading, say 7-9, who aren’t quite ready for a full-length book without pictures.

Additionally, our church bought the entire set of Christian Heroes: Then & Now biographies, which are mostly modern times, and I think we’ve borrowed them all, some multiple times.

Great books on American history, World War II, and other modern events abound. The real trick is not getting bogged down in it, feeling like you have to read them all in one year. Remember that they and we have a lifetime to continue learning. My goal is to introduce the time period as one that is interesting and relevant; they will continually be filling in the sketchy overview for the rest of their education, which will hopefully be for the rest of their life.

More book lists for elementary readers


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