Here in Virginia, fourth graders learn all about the founding of the Jamestown settlement. In today’s post, I thought I’d share some of my favorite trade books, picture books, and chapter books to use to teach a Jamestown unit.
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Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone is my #1 recommendation. I love using this historical fiction chapter book as a read-aloud while teaching about Jamestown and colonial Virginia! I love that it incorporates primary sources at the start of every chapter. It has lots of great opportunities for visualizing, inferring, predicting, and using context clues to learn new vocabulary words. Students get really into the story – in fact, I always had a number of kids who’d get their own copies to read along with me!
My America: Our Strange New Land: Elizabeth’s Jamestown Colony Diary (part of the “My America” series) by Patricia Hermes. Another historical fiction pick, this is one of a few books written from Elizabeth’s point of view. It helps kids get an understanding of what life was like for settlers’ children in the early days of the Jamestown colony.
I also recently came across Shadows at Jamestown from the “Virginia Mysteries” adventure series by Steven K. Smith. From the preview, it looks like an engaging text chalk full of facts about Jamestown. It might be another good contender for a chapter book read-aloud!
Uncovering the Jamestown Colony (part of the “Hidden History” series) by Caitie McAneney. I came across this one recently at my public library and I think it’d be a great guided reading group text. The author’s done a really nice job incorporating text features and providing interesting details about Jamestown without being overwhelming.
What If You’d Been at Jamestown? by Ellen Keller, The Virginia Colony (from the “True Book” series) by Kevin Cunningham, and Jamestown and the Virginia Colony by Daniel Rosen are a few more general nonfiction books to add to your Jamestown collection. Students enjoy the maps and other images, and these are nice to have if you do a mini research project.
In the Virginia Studies curriculum, we talk about the experiences of different groups of people in Jamestown (English settlers, American Indians, and Africans). Pocahontas by Marie Patterson gives a nice overview biographical account of Powhatan’s daughter’s life and interaction with the colonists. I also like Anne of Jamestown by Anne Price-Hardister and Mukambu of Ndongo by Patricia Procopi. While these two can be hard to find, I like that they’re heavy on photographs and lighter on the text. They do a nice job of framing daily life in Jamestown in terms that students can understand.
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker is a really interesting look at the archaeological work done at Jamestown and what researchers have learned. It’s definitely an above-grade level text, but it has a lot of great photos, maps, and other features that you might want to share with students.
John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer has always been a popular book with my kiddos. They love reading all about Captain John Smith’s adventures and they really enjoy the cartoon illustrations.
I hope you found one or two new books to try out with your students! If you have some favorite Jamestown books, please let me know in the comments so I can check them out!