Teaching World War 2 to kids and middle school students presents a unique challenge. I have found that using a variety of books in my classroom makes teaching about World War 2 more meaningful as I teach my 5th graders. The list below includes books that are appropriate for elementary students and middle school students. They not only provide historical context, but they help students develop empathy as they learn about World War 2 in the classroom.
I have taught about World War 2 in my 5th-grade classroom for over 16 years now and have discovered some amazing books throughout the years. Read below for some of my recommendations:
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Remember Not to Forget: A Memory of the Holocaust by Norman H. Finkelstein
One of the questions that my students always ask me is, “why Jewish people?” This book explains this question perfectly. I always use it to introduce the Holocaust to my students because it does a good job of explaining the Holocaust in a way that kids will understand.
Children’s Books About World War 2:
Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Josee Bisaillon.
This book talks about Kristallnacht from the perspective of a cat. Although it does take a gentler approach, it clearly shows the realities of how things quickly changed for Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The Yellow Star by Carmen Agra Deedy
This is one of the best children’s books about WWII! It demonstrates how people in the city of Denmark helped save most of their Jewish people. Make sure to read the author’s note at the end of the book and show students a map of Denmark and Sweden!
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
This is a classic, but I read it alongside The Yellow Star, and kids make so many connections between the two World War 2 books!
The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco books NEVER disappoint. This is an amazing picture book about a French family who hides a Jewish family in their basement during the German occupation. A different perspective brings this time to life for your students!
Anne Frank The Girl Heard Around the World by Linda Elovitz Marshall
After introducing my students to Anne Frank with this World at War PowerPoint Lesson, I read this book to get them to know a little more about her story. Although I often have a few 5th graders who are interested in reading her diary, this is a great picture book for students who want to know more about her life and what she experienced in hiding.
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
After teaching my students about Japanese Internment Camps, I always read this WW2 book as it tells a story about how children living in the camps tried to keep life as “normal” as possible.
Ok, I’m not going to lie – this book makes me cry. The story takes place at a zoo in Japan where most of the animals were put to death because they were afraid a bomb would hit the zoo and they would escape. It shows a very different side of war.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
This book is a classic, and it’s a teacher and student favorite! I always end our unit with this book and then my students and I make our paper cranes using this tutorial. Some students will get frustrated with it, and others will love it! : )
I hope that I was able to inspire you with these World War 2 books for kids!
If you want more social studies ideas, check out this post: