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28 New and Noteworthy Ideas For Read Across America

Looking for the best ideas for Read Across America? These children’s books for Read Across America that are not Dr. Seuss will be engaging for your students! Picture books with lesson plans and activities linked for your Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students. Picture books about America’s diversity and culture, states, American history and more for your elementary school students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!

Read Across America Week is a week celebrating all things reading in America. It used to be just a celebration of noted author and illustrator Dr. Seuss on his birthday. Now, the holiday is supposed to celebrate getting kids reading from sea to shining sea!

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

Get the lesson plan and activities for We Are Water Protectors HERE

Looking for the best ideas for Read Across America? These children's books for Read Across America that are not Dr. Seuss will be engaging for your students! Picture books with lesson plans and activities linked for your Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students. Picture books about America's diversity and culture, states, American history and more for your elementary school students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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We Are Still Here! by Traci Sorell

Too often, Native American history is treated as a finished chapter instead of relevant and ongoing. This companion book to the award-winning We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga offers readers everything they never learned in school about Native American people’s past, present, and future. Precise, lyrical writing presents topics including: forced assimilation (such as boarding schools), land allotment and Native tribal reorganization, termination (the US government not recognizing tribes as nations), Native urban relocation (from reservations), self-determination (tribal self-empowerment), Native civil rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), religious freedom, economic development (including casino development), Native language revival efforts, cultural persistence, and nationhood.

Get the lesson plan and activities for We Are Still Here! HERE

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Rivers wind through earth, cutting down and eroding the soil for millions of years, creating a cavity in the ground 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep known as the Grand Canyon. Home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved within its walls for millennia, the Grand Canyon is much more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both present and past.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Grand Canyon HERE

Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson

Apples, ho!

When Papa decides to pull up roots and move from Iowa to Oregon, he can’t bear to leave his precious apple trees behind. Or his peaches, plums, grapes, cherries, and pears. Oh, and he takes his family along too. But the trail is cruel. First there’s a river to cross that’s wider than Texas, then there are hailstones as big as plums, and then there’s even a drought, sure to crisp the cherries.

Luckily Delicious (the nonedible apple of Daddy’s eye) won’t let anything stop her father’s darling saps from tasting the sweet Oregon soil. A great piece of historical fiction for elementary students!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Apples to Oregon HERE

You Are Home by Evan Turk

Beneath the soaring doorways of stone,
and peaks that pierce the ceiling of clouds,
from every river, star, and stone
comes the eternal refrain:
you are home.

In simple, soaring language and breathtaking art, acclaimed author-illustrator Evan Turk has created a stirring ode to nature and nation. From the rugged coast of Maine to the fiery volcanoes of Hawaii, You Are Home reminds us that every animal, plant, and person helps make this land a brilliant, beautiful sanctuary of life. Every time I read this book, I imagine Jeff Bridges reading it.

Get the lesson plan and activities for You Are Home HERE

The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock

Caldecott medalist Mordicai Gerstein captures the majestic redwoods of Yosemite in this little-known but important story from our nation’s history. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt joined naturalist John Muir on a trip to Yosemite. Camping by themselves in the uncharted woods, the two men saw sights and held discussions that would ultimately lead to the establishment of our National Parks.

Twenty-One Steps by Jeff Gottesfeld

Keeping vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Arlington National Cemetery, are the sentinel guards, whose every step, every turn, honors and remembers America’s fallen. They protect fellow soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, making sure they are never alone. To stand there—with absolute precision, in every type of weather, at every moment of the day, one in a line uninterrupted since midnight July 2, 1937—is the ultimate privilege and the most difficult post to earn in the army. Everything these men and women do is in service to the Unknowns. Their standard is perfection.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Twenty-One Steps HERE

All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino

Dan Yaccarino’s great-grandfather arrived at Ellis Island an immigrant with a small shovel and his parents’ good advice: “Work hard, but remember to enjoy life, and never forget your family.” With simple text and warm, colorful illustrations, Yaccarino recounts how the little shovel was passed down through four generations of this Italian-American family—along with the good advice.

It’s a story that will have kids asking their parents and grandparents: Where did we come from? How did our family make the journey all the way to America?

Get the lesson plan and activities for All the Way to America HERE

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

From two-time Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Barbara Cooney and celebrated children’s book author Alice McLerran comes Roxaboxen, a treasured story about the magic of a child’s imagination.

Marian called it Roxaboxen. There across the road, it looked like any rocky hill—nothing but sand and rocks, and some old wooden boxes. But it was a special place. And all children needed to go there was a long stick and a soaring imagination.

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott

I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me.

And I can’t say them all . . .

When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him.

You can try a FREE lesson of I Talk Like a River by signing up here:

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Proudest Blue HERE

Watercress by Andrea Wang

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can.

At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress. A great book about Asian Americans and family history.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Watercress HERE

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

We are resilience, We are hope, We are dreamers.

Yuyi Morales brought her hopes, her passion, her strength, and her stories with her, when she came to the United States in 1994 with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed.

Dreamers is a celebration of making your home with the things you always carry: your resilience, your dreams, your hopes and history. It’s the story of finding your way in a new place, of navigating an unfamiliar world and finding the best parts of it. In dark times, it’s a promise that you can make better tomorrows.  

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

In our classroom safe and sound.
Fears are lost and hope is found.

Discover a school where all young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated.

Readers will follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be. As students come back to school, they need to know that they’re safe, making this another one of my favorite September read alouds!

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.

Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment. This powerful, poetic picture book will resonate with readers of all ages. A great book about identity and for Asian American Heritage Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Eyes That Kiss in the Corners HERE

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality. A great LGBT children’s book!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Julian is a Mermaid HERE

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more. An excellent story for any time but also for Juneteenth or Black History Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Undefeated HERE

Crown by Derrick Barnes

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Crown HERE

Storm Run by Libby Riddles

In 1985, Libby Riddles made history by becoming the first woman to win the 1,100-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race. This brand-new edition of Riddles’s timeless adventure story is complete with updated narrative details, sidebars on all aspects of the race, photographs, and all-new illustrations by beloved illustrator Shannon Cartwright. An inspiration to children and adults everywhere, this is a compelling first-hand account of the arctic storms, freezing temperatures, loyal sled dogs, and utter determination that defined Riddles’s Iditarod victory.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Storm Run HERE

Chester Nez And The Unbreakable Code by Joseph Bruchac

As a young Navajo boy, Chester Nez had to leave the reservation and attend boarding school, where he was taught that his native language and culture were useless. But Chester refused to give up his heritage. Years later, during World War II, Chester―and other Navajo men like him―was recruited by the US Marines to use the Navajo language to create an unbreakable military code. Suddenly the language he had been told to forget was needed to fight a war. This powerful picture book biography contains backmatter including a timeline and a portion of the Navajo code, and also depicts the life of an original Navajo code talker while capturing the importance of Native American heritage.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Chester Nez And The Unbreakable Code HERE

Islandborn by Junot Diaz

Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else.
Hers was a school of faraway places.

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island.  As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Get the lesson plan and activities for Islandborn HERE

Green City by Allan Drummond

In 2007, a tornado destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, and the residents were at a loss as to what to do next–they didn’t want to rebuild if their small town would just be destroyed in another storm. So they decided they wouldn’t just rebuild the same old thing; this time, they would build a town that could not only survive another storm, but one that was built in an environmentally sustainable way. Told from the point of view of a child whose family rebuilt after the storm, this companion to Energy Island is the inspiring story of the difference one community can make–and it includes plenty of rebuilding scenes and details for construction lovers, too! A beautiful story about how one town took tragedy and took themselves into the future.

Locomotive by Brian Floca

It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country! A book where readers literally read across America on the Transcontinental Railroad.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Locomotive HERE

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens.

Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees.

Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city. A perfect book for Arbor Day or for Women’s History Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Tree Lady HERE

The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Nicky is convinced that his summer with his grandmother in the Wisconsin woods is going to be the worst summer ever. She cooks food that he doesn’t like, there’s an art studio where her living room should be, and he’s expected to do chores—including fishing, the most boring chore ever.

But one afternoon, while Nicky is trying to catch their dinner, a raft drifts down the river towards him. The raft has a calming magic about it, affecting both Nicky and the wildlife of the river and woods. Through the raft and the adventures it brings him on, Nicky finds new common ground with his grandmother, a fellow river rat, who encourages him to explore his newfound talent for art.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Raft HERE

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her. But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

Get the lesson plan and activities for My Papi Has a Motorcycle HERE

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

A Japanese American boy learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II, and his ability to play helps him after the war is over. A beautiful story about a less than proud moment in American history but a moment that needs to be told make it one of the best ideas for Read Across America week!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Baseball Saved Us HERE

Best Ideas For Read Across America Week

What are some of your favorite ideas for Read Across America Week / Dr. Seuss’s Birthday? Are there any must read book ideas for Read Across America that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!

REMEMBER: You can try a FREE lesson of I Talk Like a River by signing up here:

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

Looking for the best ideas for Read Across America? These children's books for Read Across America that are not Dr. Seuss will be engaging for your students! Picture books with lesson plans and activities linked for your Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students. Picture books about America's diversity and culture, states, American history and more for your elementary school students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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