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 unit on Jamestown and early American history.
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Fictional Jamestown Books
Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone is my #1 recommendation. I love using this historical fiction chapter book as a read-aloud! It incorporates primary sources at the start of every chapter and has tons of 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. Since it’s written from a child’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.
Shadows at Jamestown is part of the “Virginia Mysteries” adventure series by Steven K. Smith. It weaves tons of facts about Jamestown into a fun mystery story with main characters my students’ age. Another good contender for a read-aloud!
Nonfiction Books about Jamestown
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 great for guided reading groups. 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 nonfiction books to add to your colonial Virginia 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 who lived in early Jamestown. 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 frame daily life in Jamestown in simpler language.
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. While it’s 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 students. They love reading all about Captain John Smith’s adventures and they really enjoy the cartoon illustrations.
I love using books to teach social studies, and I hope you’ve found one or two new books to try out as you and your students study colonial history! If you have some favorite Jamestown books, please let me know in the comments so I can check them out!