Read on to discover a great list of books about heroes for preschoolers up to middle school. These real-life heroes and role models are inspirational and include American historical figures and other famous people. Enjoy this collection of biographies for kids.
Several months ago, my kids and I listened to Gladys Aylward: No Mountain Too High by Myrna Grant using my favorite audiobook app Scribd (you can try it out for free for two months with my link!) and we loved listening to it! (It makes a great audiobook for a family road trip!)
It was such a great story about a real person – Gladys Alward – who as a young woman left her home in England to travel, alone, to China in order to speak the message of Christianity to the people there and faced tremendous difficulties as she tackled the language and the culture.
It proved so inspiring and wonderful to observe the hands of God throughout her story that one of my 9-year-old daughters hasn’t stopped talking about how she wants to be a missionary someday and go to China.
We’ve also found ourselves watching various movies about true people that my children adore because “it really happened.”
In my own adult book club, someone often picks a biography and autobiography or memoir for us to read and discuss so I, too, am drawn to these true stories about famous people (you can check out some of my favorites here)! It’s always so fascinating!
Learning about these individuals is really inspiring and I wanted to find more good movies but esepcially good children’s books about heroes, real-life heroes and not of the fantasy or comic book or superhero variety.
So, I enlisted my new friend Lauren for a list of books about heroes for me and my children to read and/or listen to together.
Lauren blogs about children’s literature over at Happily Ever Elephants and is the perfect person to help me find some amazing book recommendations for our homeschool.
Lauren is a library media specialist and a mom of two young boys, and her blog is solely devoted to the books she, her children and her students love. From board books to beginning readers to chapter books for tweens, I’ve found the best recommendations on her site!
Even better, she creates terrific book lists on a variety of relevant themes, including courage, self-worth, and the importance of adopting a growth mindset, all characteristics a true hero must possess.
When I saw Lauren’s awesome non-fiction book list about mighty girls, I couldn’t wait to have her put together a list of books for my own kids!
I asked her to put together a list of true story books for kids.
Why Books About Heroes Matter
Children are filled with big ideas and even bigger dreams. They have huge aspirations and believe the world is theirs for the taking.
Yet, at the same time, there is no denying that children can also be filled with apprehension, nerves, and even anxiety when it comes to truly understanding what it will take to conquer their goals.
Reading about real life heroes with your children is one of the most important gifts you can give to them.
Sharing any story is important, of course, but there is something inherently awe-inspiring about a child learning about a real person who stopped at nothing to achieve their dreams (which is why family storytelling is also important).
The Benefits of Reading a Story About Heroes for Kids
Whether in the form of religious freedom, civil rights, women’s rights or even the fight for an education, there is so much to be learned from heroes who were born into humble — and even heart wrenching — beginnings, yet went on to achieve greatness despite a myriad of obstacles in their way.
Our kids can learn so much from these heroes.
They learn about courage and perseverance, of course, but they also learn the importance of adopting a growth mindset — that there will be times you will stumble and fall but that does not mean you stay down and refuse to get back up.
Perhaps, most importantly, stories of heroism help children understand that believing in yourself is of the utmost importance — that we can do anything and everything if we believe we can and if we drown out the voices that try to tell us we aren’t good enough or we will never accomplish what we seek to attain.
Reading about acts of heroism and journeys fraught with challenges that end in glorious success remind our children that with patience, determination, and unfaltering self-worth and integrity, they will not only better themselves, but they will set themselves on the path to making their wildest hopes and dreams their reality.
Isn’t that what we want for our children?
List of Children’s Books About Heroes
The following children’s chapter books, picture books, and biography anthologies are stories of heroism cherished in our home and among my students.
We hope the courageous men and women highlighted within these pages inspire your families and encourage your children to reach for the stars.
Biography Chapter Books for Children
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and wanted nothing more than to be free. She risked everything — including her own life! — to accomplish her dreams.
And once she achieved her own freedom, she refused to stop there. Instead, after her risky escape from slavery, Harriet became a conductor on the Underground Railroad where she guided nearly 300 slaves to freedom.
She overcame every obstacle in her way and faced extreme danger to help free others from bondage.
As the Nazi’s occupied Holland in 1942, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl fled with her family and went into hiding in a secret annex of an old office building.
Cut off from the outside world, this is Anne’s diary, one of the most compelling documents and personal accounts from the Holocaust.
Anne records her experiences, including hiding in confined quarters, facing hunger, boredom and fear, and of course, the pervasive threat of being discovered.
Yet, despite the cruel world outside, Anne’s optimism and hope prevail on every page, and her diary is an unforgettable testament to courage, heroism, and – remarkably – compassion.
The name Jackie Robinson is synonymous with the term “American Hero,” for he was the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Robinson was a triple threat in the sports world, for he could play baseball, football, and basketball like none other. Yet, he faced one critical problem: the color of his skin.
Robinson eventually played baseball in the Negro Leagues, but he was so talented that he was eventually recruited to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
This is a wonderful biography about his tenacity on and off the field, his steadfast perseverance, and his ability to look beyond hatred and racism.
This is the stunning true story of four black American women who lived at a time when being black— and being female — limited their abilities to do what they wanted to do: math.
Yet, despite the significant obstacles in their way pertaining to societal and gender norms, these fierce and brilliant women refused to back down from their goals. Instead, they broke boundaries.
These four ladies, referred to as “human computers,” used pencils, slide rulers and adding machines, to calculate the numbers that would launch astronauts and rockets into space, helping NASA achieve some of the greatest moments in America’s space program.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up at a time where women were encouraged to be homemakers, not lawyers. And not only was she a woman, but she was Jewish, too!
Despite these two significant obstacles, RBG never gave up on her aspirations of pursuing fairness in the face of injustice. As a lawyer and then a Supreme Court Justice, RBG continually disagreed with the unequal treatment of all people, and she fought tirelessly for equality and women’s rights.
This is an inspiring and powerful book about how we can always stand up for what’s right, even when it seems the whole world is against us.
JK Rowling is a hero to so many children as she is the famous author of the sensational Harry Potter series. Yet, she wasn’t always rich and famous.
When Rowling was a young woman, she was a single mom, out of luck, and could barely afford milk and bread for her baby. She knew she loved to write and she had a story taking hold of her, so she wrote Harry Potter in every spare moment she had.
Yet, when she was finished with her manuscript, twelve publishing houses turned it down. This is the story of perseverance, honoring your passions, and working hard to become the best you can be at your craft.
Misty Copeland has broken all kinds of barriers in the world of dance. Would you have ever guessed at the age of 13, she never thought she would make it as a ballerina because of the color of her skin and her body type?
Growing up in a chaotic, low-income home with a mother and a dance teacher who clashed, Misty had to learn to navigate her world at a young age, believe in herself and her abilities, and stand up for herself when others tried to force her to sit down.
Despite the fact that she was born in Pakistan where girls were not entitled to an education, Malala grew up with a father who believed in his daughter’s right to learn. He thus schooled her in secret, unafraid of the consequences.
Though an enemy sought to silence Malala’s powerful voice in a horrible act of violence, Malala was undeterred, eventually traveling the globe to advocate for the right to education for every person.
I feel like this would be a great book about heroes for middle school.
A terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s village in Malawi, destroying all of his family’s crops. This devastating event meant William’s family had nothing left to eat and nothing left to sell.
William was determined to help his family survive, and he took to the library to figure out a solution to their problems. After tons of studying, William built a windmill out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, brought electricity to his home, and enabled his family to pump water and farm their land.
This is a fabulous story about a heroic young inventor! Our family just watched the movie made about him on Netflix and it’s fabulous!
Picture Books About Heroes
If you want books about heroes for preschoolers, then you will likely enjoy many of the following biography picture books for children.
When she was only a toddler, Helen Keller became blind and deaf, no longer able to speak or communicate with the people around her. Despite her handicaps, Helen wanted to experience life.
With the help of a phenomenal teacher, Helen gained knowledge and wisdom which led her on a mission to change the world and fight against injustice. Even without a spoken voice, people listened. So, so powerful!
When Temple Grandin wasn’t talking at age three, she was never expected to speak. Yet, this remarkable woman, currently a spokesperson for autism, eventually went on to become one of the most powerful and quirky voices in modern science.
Due to her unique mind, Grandin was able to connect with animals in a special manner, which allowed her to invent groundbreaking improvements for farms worldwide.
We also loved watching the movie Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes. It’s so good!
This stunner of a book blows my students’ minds every time I read it in our library.
Born in Ghana, Emmanuel had a deformed leg and was dismissed by many, including his own father. But his compassionate mother told him he could do anything he wanted, including hopping on one leg to school two miles each day, playing soccer, and riding a bike.
In 2001, Emmanuel rode his bike 400 miles across Africa, spreading the message to all who could hear and see that “disability is not inability.”
Powerful and oh-so-inspiring, this book is a treasure.
Mahatma Gandhi is viewed through the unique lens of one of the book’s authors: his grandson, Arun.
Gandhi is a loving and honored man, one who guides those in his village with a gentle hand and wise words. Arun and his family come to live in Gandhi’s service village, and though Arun adores his grandfather, he feels burdened by carrying the Gandhi name. How can he live up to his grandfather’s legacy?
One day on the soccer field, a disagreement with another child sparks Arun’s anger, causing him to seek out his grandfather for advice. Their resulting conversation is tender, enlightening, and one that will resonate deeply with both children and the adults who read to them.
We all know the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., a black boy who grew up to witness horrifying racial discrimination in America. He became a minister like his father before him, and subsequently rose to become one of the most visible and vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement.
Yet, you are unlikely to know the story of Abraham, a boy who grew up years earlier in Europe. As a Jewish man, Abraham, too, faced atrocious persecution. He fled to America where he became a rabbi, and like MLK, he became a voice for equality.
This is the story of how these two remarkable men came together as victims of discrimination, formed an unbreakable friendship, and used their voices to fight for peace and social justice.
An extraordinary story, and a favorite to read to tweens.
Bibliography Anthology Books for Kids
Both men and women alike are featured in this stunning collection of heroes the renowned author put together for his young son.
Featuring 52 brief biographies, these diverse heroes show that each and every one of us has the power to leave our imprint on the world.
We also adore the other book in this collection, Heroes for My Daughter.
This fabulous anthology chronicles the lives of immigrants and refugees who have made phenomenal contributions to American society.
These courageous men and women hail from countries worldwide, such as Mexico, Syria, China and Somalia, and include iconic figures like Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein and journalist Jorge Ramos.
It is at once inspirational and motivational, and children will be astounded by the obstacles overcome and the determination each of these figures possessed.
What a collection! This is a fabulous keepsake, a beautiful compilation celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of fifty women who changed the world and left an indelible mark on our society.
Readers young and old will learn about the challenges these women faced as children and young adults and be forever inspired by their courage and stunning achievements.
These New York Times best-selling books transform biographies of famous and notable women, turning each story into a unique fairy tale that is perfect for bedtime.
From Nefertiti to Beyonce, young readers will be entranced by these beautifully illustrated books that tell captivating tales of the worlds’ most fascinating females!
Happy reading! I’d love to hear who you love learning about with your kids and what stories about heroes for kids you best enjoy.
Lauren Bercuson, of Happily Ever Elephants, turned her passion for children’s literature into a fabulous resource for parents and educators where she reviews everything from board books for babies to chapter books for tweens. Through reading with intention, she believes we can teach children to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. Lauren shares her favorite kids books – the ones that get two “trunks” up – on her blog, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
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