Turkeys. Family. Feasts. History. Thankfulness. Thanksgiving covers so many different themes, and so the best Thanksgiving books for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students also cover a wide variety of topics and themes.
Below, find a list of Thanksgiving books that will be engaging for your upper elementary students. While not every facet of Thanksgiving is covered in the book list below, there are silly books, historically accurate books, books from the Native American perspective, books about turkeys, books about gratitude, and more.
And then, use one of these Thanksgiving Activity ideas to go along with your read-aloud.
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Thanksgiving Books About Turkeys
'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving
This book is a a fun twist on the Christmas classic. Children go on a field trip to a farm, befriend the turkeys, and then smuggle them home to save them from becoming Thanksgiving dinner!
The story and the rhymes are fun - and easily fit into a Thanksgiving writing prompt about Thanksgiving from the turkey's point of view.
In this fun book, a turkey seeks to protect himself from becoming Thanksgiving dinner by trying to look like other animals on the farm. Eventually, the turkey comes up with a disguise that makes everyone happy.
As a read aloud, the vocabulary and story are probably a little easy for upper elementary students. However, Turkey Trouble fits in well with the popular Thanksgiving writing prompt, disguise a turkey!
This book was recommended to me by teacher Anna Romine.
Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey
Miguel's dad sends him a turkey to fatten for Thanksgiving, and this sweet book covers the adventures that Miguel has with his turkey. Spoiler alert: Miguel's family eats chicken instead of turkey for Thanksgiving.
Spanish words are scattered throughout, as well as many references to Catholic traditions that are important to Miguel's family.
5th grade teacher Claudia Jones recommended this book to me.
Turk and Runt
Nobody believes Runt the Turkey. He knows the people coming to the farm in November are looking for turkeys to eat.
Runt cleverly protects his brother Turk from being chosen for Thanksgiving dinner - even though Turk doesn't want his help.
This is another fun book that considers Thanksgiving from the turkey's perspective.
Read Aloud Ideas for Thanksgiving - Native American Perspective
1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving
This National Geographic book was written in partnership with Plimouth Patuxet (once known as Plimoth Plantation). It seeks to teach about the history of Thanksgiving from the point of view of the Wampanoag people.
Students will learn about the Wampanoag language, about different interactions with European settlers, and what the first celebration (that we now call Thanksgiving) most likely looked like.
This book also addresses the relationship between the Wampanoag and European settlers after this first "Thanksgiving" in 1621 - and why many Native people view this holiday as a reminder of bloodshed and betrayal.
Many 3rd and 4th grade students might struggle to read this independently, but using it as a read aloud and providing opportunities for discussion is probably the best way to read it, anyways.
This book tells the story of the First Thanksgiving from Squanto's perspective. It starts with Squanto's first interactions with Europeans, explains how he was taken captive, learned the English language, and eventually tried to play peacemaker between Native tribes and European settlers.
It offers a realistic picture of the relationships between Europeans and different tribes - both the good and the bad.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story is not necessarily just a Thanksgiving book - there is no mention of Thanksgiving in the book. But it fits in well this time of year because of the theme of Native American food. If you don't have time to read it around Thanksgiving, then save it for another time!
It is an easier read, but with deep meaning. It celebrates Native American culture using a food that is well known across many tribes.
This book was recommended to me by 3rd grade teacher Gigi Mahoney.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
Cherokee people use the word otsaliheliga to communicate gratitude. This book looks at Cherokee life in the different seasons throughout the year, and shares both big and small things to be grateful for. Cherokee words and pronunciations are included throughout the book.
In a season where many people take the time to consider things they are thankful for, it can be helpful to look out how another culture expresses their thanks.
Other Thanksgiving Book Ideas for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade
In this retelling of a classic fable, suspicious villagers hide themselves and their food from visitors. The visitors "trick" the villagers into becoming more welcoming and working together by having them create stone soup.
While this is not an overtly Thanksgiving themed book, the theme of working together and sharing a meal together make it perfect for Thanksgiving. And creating your own version of stone soup makes a fun activity for the week of Thanksgiving!
Balloons Over Broadway
Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade has become a tradition for families all over the United States - but how does this tradition begin?
Balloons over Broadway tells the true story of Tony Sarg and how his skills as a puppeteer helped him as he created the helium filled balloons we now see on Thanksgiving Day!
Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving
This book tells the true and interesting story of Sarah Josepha Hale, and how she encouraged Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Sarah's perseverance is a common theme throughout this historical book that was recommended to me by 2nd grade teacher Kristina Storaska.
Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!
Make copies, find a fiction book, and you'll be ready for any emergency that comes your way!