"Celebrating the Books of Independence Day" Illustrations of a soldier saluting, military jets, the American Flag. The united Through Reading logo.

Celebrating the Books of Independence Day

July 3, 2023

Since 1776, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, concerts, and parades, to more informal family gatherings and cookouts. Whether you experience July 4th as just another federal holiday or as a day of celebration, below are five books that will connect you and your family to various people, historical periods, or ideals that helped to shape America from its earliest days until today.

From leaders in various wartime eras of our nation’s history and its indigenous peoples to civic concepts like the office of president or rituals to honor the fallen, these age-specific book recommendations will help you celebrate the books of Independence Day. Find these titles and more on UTR’s Recommended Books List.

Life During Wartime

Brave Clara Barton (by Frank Martin)
Recommended Age: 5 — 8

Meet a woman who outgrew her childhood shyness to become a fearless “Angel of the Battlefield”! This biography follows Clara Barton as she helps her brother recover from a terrible injury, overcomes her timidity, works as a teacher, and finally fights her way to the front lines of the Civil War, where she helps soldiers wounded in battle. Clara’s story is a testament to women’s strength, grit, and persistence; Clara Barton is a role model who transcends history.

Little Women (by Louisa May Alcott)
Recommended Age: 13 — 14+

Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of four sisters. Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

Enduring Traditions of American Indians
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes (by Wab Kinew)
Recommended Age: 5 — 9

Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book, illustrated by the acclaimed Joe Morse. Including figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, Go Show the World showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well-known and the not-so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.”

Commander in Chief

If I Ran for President (by Catherine Stier)
Recommended Age: 6 — 9

Imagine starring in commercials and traveling in your own campaign bus! Or seeing your face on bumper stickers and T-shirts! If you ran for president, you would get to do these and other fun things, but you would also have to do a lot of hard work.

Honoring the Fallen

Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (by Jeff Gottesfeld)
Recommended Age: 7 — 10

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 made the ultimate sacrifice, ensuring 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.