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Great Picture Books and Activities for Celebrating the 4th of July!

Great books and activities for Celebrating the 4th of July at School4Boys

The 4th of July is just a week away, and I decided to put together a set of books to help us learn a bit more about the holiday, and the history behind it. Big A., is very interested in historical stories if they are told in an interesting way (a bit like his mom), so I wanted to find fun stories that were accessible for my little guys, but also show the meaning and history behind the celebrations.


I also did my best to look for stories that offered many different kinds of diversity. I tried to find stories that featured diversity of setting, ways of celebrating, and of race and ethnicity.


It took a little investigation, but I think I found some good ones…

4th of July Picture Book: The Story of America's Birthday

The Story of America’s Birthday – written by Patricia A. Pingry illustrated by Meredith Johnson

This is a short and simple book that makes the connection between the Declaration of Independence, The American Revolution, and Independence Day celebrations remarkably accessible to preschoolers.


4th of July picture book: Red White and Boom!Red, White, and Boom – written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Huy Voun Lee

This fun and gentle text shows diverse and loving families enjoying themselves in all sorts of traditional 4th of July celebrations in sites all over the country.

 4th of July picture book : Betsy RossBetsy Ross – written by Becky White and illustrated by Megan Lloyd

This bright, colorful, and fun text tells the story of Betsy Ross, and the making of the American flag for young children. A “Betsy Ross” star cutting activity ends the book.


4th of July picture books : CelebrationCelebration – written by Jane Resh Thomas and illustrated by Raul Colon

This is the story of one extended family’s 4th of July house party. Full of and familiar family characters, situations, and ways of celebrating that any family can relate to. The illustrations add to family warmth of this book.


4th of July Picture Books: The 4th of July StoryThe 4th of July Story – written by Alice Dalgliesh and illustrated by Marie Nonnast

A work of historical fiction, with an emphasis on the history, this book brings the story of our county’s founding to life for kids.


4th of July books: Hats off for the Fourth of JulyHats off for the Fourth of July – written by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Gustaf Miller –

This book captures the excitement and fun of a 4th of July Parade in a small Northeastern town with rhyming text and humorous illustrations.


4th of July picture books: The One and Only Declaration of IndependenceThe Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence – written by Judith St. George and illustrated by Will Hellenbrand

This book is a gem, and it tells the true story of the great challenges and adventures of the historical document that paved the way for the freedoms in this country. As someone who has an interest in American history, there were many things in this book that I did not know, and it reads like an adventure story.


4th of July Picture Books : Hello America

Hello America! – written and illustrated by Martha Day Zschock and illustrated by

This colorful and playful board book for young children follows a baby eagle and his mother on a trip through America’s historic places. The cartoon eagles are fabulous and the Littles love it!!!


4th of July Picture BooksApple Pie 4th of July – written by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Margaret Chodos Irvine

This is a very different kind of 4th of July story, and it features a first generation Chinese American child whose immigrant parents run a restaurant. This story beautifully captures the cultural difficulties that often face the children of immigrants, and demonstrates that the combining of different cultures is truly what creates American culture.


4th of July Picture Books: America The BeautifulAmerica the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Chriss Gall

America the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Wendell Minor

America the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Robert Sabuda

America the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Neil Waldman

Each of these four books contains the text of the beautiful poem written by Katherine Lee Bates, and which was first published for Independence Day in 1885. This poem, focusing on the beauty of the United States, is illustrated in four very different ways in these four picture books. I find them all beautiful, and all interesting. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I am a sucker for the elaborate paper engineering done in Sabuda’s book. To call it a pop-up seems demeaning, because it is truly amazing. Just one of these books, or the collection of all four together, could encourage a creative family to document their own America The Beautiful in an artistic way.


I’ve also found some really creative and fun holiday projects and activities that we are trying this week…


Here is a fun flag hand print art activity from b-inspired Mama! We are going to try this by cutting out paper hands and painting on them, rather than doing the painting directly on the kids’ hands because Big A. doesn’t want the paint on his hands, and hand painting is a little difficult for me to manage with all three right now.

4th of July crafts - handprint flag painting


Here is a collection of great flag inspired crafts from Kids Activities Blog …

4th of July - American flag crafts for kids


A super cute idea for making red, white and blue t-shirts at home from Cutesy Crafts…

4th of July - cute t-shirt craft


Here is another large collection of fun looking craft ideas from All Kids Network. We are going to try the star guy!

4th of July - crafts


I hope you find a book, or an activity that helps your family enjoy your 4th of July this year.

Happy Reading!


Tracy :-)






The Sixth Annual Book-A-Day Challenge

Book-A-Day Summer Reading Challenge and Donalyn Miller

I recently read this terrific post (click here to read it), written by Donalyn Miller, on The Nerdy Book Club blog. Donalyn Miller is a teacher/author/reader whom I greatly admire. If truth be told, I have a teacher crush on her.


The post is a call to join her in her sixth annual Book-A-Day Challenge. The premise is very simple, and it is to read a book every day in order to create a pattern of daily reading, to share the titles of good books far and wide, to celebrate your “reading life,” and to maybe make a new reading friend.


Miller’s rules for the challenge (she also says they are guidelines), are simple and come directly from the blog post:

  1. Set your own start and end date.
  2. Read one book each day of “your” summer season.
  3. Any book qualifies
  4. Keep a record of the books you read, and if you want, share them often on a social networking site or a blog. Use the #bookaday hash tag when sharing.


Here is how we will take on the challenge at School4Boys:

  1. We will start today, June 2. Our end date will be August 15th. I picked that date because Big, Big, Brother is moving into his dorm on the 16th. It is going to be an emotional event at the house, and well, that will end the summer for us because we will all be too busy crying to read.
  2. We will record each title in a log. Also, in order to create a visual representation of each family member’s reading, A. and I are going to create a chart by printing out pictures of the covers of the books we read, and then taping them to the wall next to the name of the person who read the books.
  3. A.’s challenge is to both “read” one book (in his own way – which right now is a combination of “reading” the pictures and searching for known sight words), and to listen to one book each day.   BBB will be participating at his own pace, but is a self-motivated reader (hooray!), and The Littles read or are read a gazillion books each day (this is only a slight exaggeration), so they are already participating in their own way.
  4. I will post our favorite book of the day on my social media sites, along with a numerical rating of its quality (1-5), and the name of the family member who is recommending it.


First up on MY professional development “want to read” list is…


The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller


The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, by none other than Donalyn Miller. I have had this book on my shelf and my mind for a while now, and I AM going to read it this summer!


I hope that you will join us in our reading adventure this summer! Follow along, or even better yet, share your favorite titles with us!


How about you? How are you approaching summer reading this summer?


Happy Reading!

Tracy :-)



Logo from


Jumpstart Read for the Record

On Thursday October 3, 2013, millions of people will come together to participate in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Campaign, and will read the fantastic book, Otis by Loren Long to the children in their homes, libraries and/or classrooms. Read for the Record participants will attempt to break the world record for the number of people reading one specific book on the same day. Last year the world record was broken with 2,385,305 adults and children reading around the world. Jumpstart is an organization near and dear to my heart, and I have been participating in the Read for the Record Campaign in some capacity since it began in 2006. The campaign uses the world record breaking event to both help raise awareness about the lack of high quality early childhood programs and literacy opportunities for children living in poverty, and to raise money for it’s preschool programs. I saw first hand when working in a school serving children living in poverty how seriously the lack of literacy access for young children affected them and their long-term success in school. Jumpstart works to provide disadvantaged young children with access to both books to keep for their own, as well as high quality pre-kindergarten experiences. For more information about this great organization please visit


Otis is an absolutely beautiful book about friendship and loyalty on a farm. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. To read my review of Otis, please click here.


If you don’t have access to Otis at home, or you can’t get it from the library, you can still read Otis on October 3rd . The organization We Give Books is providing free access to an online version of Otis, as well as other books.


Here at School4boys we will be spending the whole day on October 3rd celebrating Otis! Next week I will be posting about our special Otis day. If you want to plan a special Otis Day for the children in your life there are several places you could go for ideas.

The Jumpstart Read for the Record website has a page devoted to activities related to Otis. You can find lots of great ideas for celebrating literacy and Otis

The State Library of Ohio has created a whole host of activities to go along with the reading of Otis, as well as many other online resources…


The following link is Loren Long’s Author/Illustrator page for Otis with original sketches of the book, an interview about the book, and a video book trailer.


This site has fun cow activities – create a puppet on a stick or a paper bag plus more


There are many available curricular tie in-s for this book. Otis could make a great read-aloud addition to units on friendship, feelings, apples (an apple tree is prominently featured), farms or farm animals, and/or tractors (a particular favorite in our house).


Ferdinand and Mike Mulligan collage

This book also can be connected to two old school children’s literature favorites of mine (and now Big A.’s): The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. Both of these lovely classic books provide several significant similarities in illustrations themes, story lines and language.


We will be reading Otis at school4boys on Thursday October 3, and we hope you will too! To pledge to read please go to the Read for the Record pledge page here.

Happy Reading !

Tracy :-)