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Pre-K

Growing Reader

8 Visual and Very Fun Biography Series for Young Readers

by Jennifer Ridgway

Picture Book Biography Series

My pre-K twins recently became fascinated by Martin Luther King, Jr. As I researched possible picture books for them to learn more about him and his life, I came across quite a few series that focus on famous and historically significant people (including MLK, Jr.) that are specifically geared towards kids ages 3 to 8. I took a closer look at a number of them and discovered the unique ways in which they present history to children. Here are some of my favorite biography series for little kids.

Please note: retail buttons will direct you to the first book in a series. Click on the title of the series to see more books.

  • Ages 3 - 5

  • Little People, Big Dreams Series

    by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by various artists

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    This illustrated series that covers inspiring women like Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, and Maya Angelou is great for young readers. Beginning with the idea that each distinguished person started with a childhood dream, the author lets young kids know that they too can follow their dreams and accomplish big things. The stories show the women’s (at this point, all the people covered in the series are women) accomplishments with just the right amount of detail for preschoolers. At the back of each book, readers will find two additional pages with photographs and information that complement the story. These reads are also beautiful — with a hardcover binding and wonderful artwork, they make excellent gifts.

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  • Rookie Biographies Series

    by various authors and illustrators

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    These 32-page, 8” x 8” paperback books are a cross between a picture book and a reader. The spreads include easy-to-read text with three to five sentences on one page and a colorful image with a caption on the opposite page. The books also include a table of contents, index, glossary with pictures, timeline highlighting major moments, fast facts, and a map indicating the subject’s birthplace and other significant areas nearby. I really liked the “You Can…” feature at the end of each book as well, a unique section that gives readers tips on how they can emulate the historical figure.

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  • Ordinary People Change the World Series

    by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

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    This bestselling illustrated series from Brad Meltzer emphasizes the character traits of significant historical figures and encourages kids to aspire to live their own lives heroically. The books are hybrids of picture books and comics, providing text that tells the story while also allowing the heroes to “speak”  through speech bubbles. The narratives include the characters’ childhood influences and are written in a friendly, engaging style, tackling difficult subjects (such as segregation) in ways that children can understand. At the back of each book you'll find a timeline and related photographs.

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  • National Geographic Readers Series

    by various authors

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    National Geographic Readers have quite a bit of shelf space in our house. The photography featured in these books is, unsurprisingly, beautiful and colorful, and the subjects are comprehensive and age-appropriate. Young readers will become more engaged in the experience when they see the various sidebars, timetables, diagrams, and fun facts incorporated throughout the text. The books in this series come in a variety of levels, so simply choose the one that’s most appropriate for your little reader.

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  • Ages 6 - 8

  • Who Was? Series

    by various authors and illustrators

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    These illustrated books clock in at over 100 pages and feature line drawings throughout. This bestselling series is also the most expansive, with over 120 books thus far, and diverse in the types of figures it covers. With excellent reader reviews, parents and kids alike love the informative and fun writing in this series. The chapters are the perfect length and the sidebars dive deeper into themes presented in the stories. There is a subset of titles available in Spanish as well.

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  • You Should Meet Series

    by Thea Feldman and Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by various artists

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    These Level 3 readers each feature colorful illustrations, the subject’s full life story, and a fun quiz. Quotes from the hero are woven into the text, bringing a more personal touch to the book. The “But Wait … There’s More” section at the back of the book sets these apart. The section is customized to fit to the person profiled — you'll find instructions for science experiments in Mae Jemison’s biography and ballet positions in Misty Copeland’s biography. The emphasis on childhood experiences also makes them relatable to young readers.

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  • A True Book: Biographies Series

    by various authors and illustrators

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    This series includes a mix of text and images in each 48-page biography. The text is clear and encourages readers to think critically about the person while showing the arc of the figure’s life and how they changed over time. The books also highlight how our world continues to be affected by their actions. All the pictures include captions, and fun facts related to the images are called out in blue. Each book is broken into chapters with subheadings and includes a glossary, timeline, statistics, a resource section for further reading, and an index.

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  • Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists and Composers Series

    by Mike Venezia

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    This series is unique as it focuses specifically on artists and musicians. The books help to introduce children not only to the people, but also to the various styles and techniques of art and music. They include silly cartoons, biographies, and reproductions of artwork and sheet music. I recommend using these as great primers before visiting a museum or attending a concert.

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What picture book biographies have hooked your little ones on history? Let us know in the comments below!