When I was a child, I didn’t know how to dream about my life. “You can do anything you put your mind to.” As a good child, I thought everyone was right about how good I could be. My friends would laugh at me if I said that I wanted to write or be a journalist. If I wanted to act or dance, they would say that was “too competitive.” When I was a teenager, I had a hard time figuring out who I was. I couldn’t be who I was if I couldn’t be who I was. Who would I be?
In order to live our truth, we must follow our curiosity. As a grown-up and a mother, I now know that this is the case. We need to accept our curiosity. We need to be able to look around. To get something wrong. To find out how we each see the world around us. That will help us improve the world.
Fortunately, a lot of great people have already paved the way for us. They didn’t let the negative messages they heard about their dreams affect them. A group of people who didn’t care about anything else but their work. They didn’t know that if they didn’t follow what their heart was telling them, they wouldn’t be on the right path.
Some 20 people made their own way and changed not only their lives but ours, too. Twenty stories about people who did what they were curious about, did what they were in love with, and led the way for us to be a better world. To help your kids dream big, you should read them some of these 20 biography books for kids:
The Best Biography Books for Kids
The Story of Harriet Tubman by Christine Platt
Before she was famous for her fight to free people from slavery, she was a little girl who was sad to see her family split up. In most kids’ history classes, Tubman is going to be a big part of the story. This book also gives a timeline of her life, with age-appropriate discussion questions. It also has biographies of Barack Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Benjamin Franklin, and more, if you like this one!
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant and Boris Kulikov
This picture book biography tells the story of how Louis Braille lost his sight and came up with a way to write. A young Braille wanted to be able to read again after an accident caused him to lose his sight. For blind kids around the world, his invention gave them a new way to get around a world that wasn’t made for them. This book is more than just inspirational. It shows kids that everyone can do good things.
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and Éric Puybaret
Jacques was a boy once. In his free time, he liked to go on walks by the sea. Kids will be inspired to follow their curiosity and make history by reading this book about Jacques Cousteau, which is both whimsical and poetic. It will also show them that every person who has made history started out as a kid with curiosity.
Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone and Rebecca Gibbon
Elizabeth knew from a very young age that things were not equal in her life. How could only a few people vote? Voting is the heart of our democracy. Then, she went to college, made friends with people who thought the same way, and kept going until women in the United States could vote. She was a girl who saw a problem and grew up to figure out how to solve it.
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonya Sotomayor and Lulu Delacre
Sonya Sotomayor, the first Latina on the Supreme Court, talks about her life and the steps that led her to the top job in the country. For her, it was reading. Books helped her deal with difficult times in her life, connect with her roots, and see that her future was full of opportunities, all thanks to them. In her book, Sotomayor tells kids all over the world to read, dream, and solve their own problems.
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kera Ascoet
Whenever Malala was little, she dreamed of a magic pencil. As a way to make everyone happy. Why did she do this? The more she grew up, the more she realized that even if she didn’t have a magic pencil, she could still work hard to make the world better. Malala’s story is told in a way that’s appropriate for kids. We learn about how hard it was for her to follow her dreams and how even then, she still had hope for a better future for herself and her friends.
Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown and Julie Paschkis
People sometimes use paint to make things. For a little boy in Chile, words were better. There were many poems written by Pablo, who wrote about all the things he loved. Things that he found in nature, things that his friends made, and things that he found at the market. he wrote about the people of Chile, how they struggled and what made them so excited. There was a little boy who loved to paint with words.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle and Rafael López
Millo Castro Zaldarriaga had a dream about drumming. That’s not true, though. Girls weren’t allowed to play drums on her little island. There were two things in her dreams that she wanted to do: hit tall congas and tap small bongós. Once, she decided to follow her heart. When people heard her bright music, they danced and sang and said that boys and girls can make music, too. It shows that boys and girls can be free to drum and dream, which is a good thing for kids all over the world. Millo’s story is an example of that.
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and George Ford
As a 6-year-old, Ruby was just like any other child. Then she became the first person of color to be enrolled in an all-white school. In the beginning, a lot of people didn’t like the idea. They said things that were mean and threatening to each other. Do what you’ve been told to do. Ruby did what she was told and went to school even though she didn’t want to. A little girl can change the world in many ways. As a person who is brave in the face of racism and injustice.
A Voice Named Aretha by Katheryn Russel-Brown and Laura Freeman
It’s hard to believe that a quiet and shy girl from Detroit ended up being the Queen of Soul and the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was a way for her to stay true to herself and her beliefs. She didn’t play for groups of people who were only white. She did what was right. The singer Aretha Franklin proved that if you have a lot of passion and keep going, you can do anything.
Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician by Lesa Cline-Ransome and Raúl Colón
When NASA used mathematicians called “human computers,” one woman stood out from the rest. This is because she was the only one. Katherine Johnson played a big role in getting John Glen around the world, letting men walk on the moon, and getting Apollo 13 back home safe and sound. If you are a girl who likes numbers, this book is for you.
Vincent Can’t Sleep by Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpre
This is the story of how one of the world’s most famous and creative artists came up with the ideas that made him so great. Vincent Can’t Sleep Before he could go to sleep, when Vincent Van Gogh was tired, he would walk around at night. This gave him the idea to paint “Starry Night.” It tells kids to do what they love, even if they don’t see the benefits in their lifetime. The writing is beautiful and poetic, and the message is clear. It might be a good idea to wait until they’ve grown up before walking outside alone at night.
Magic Ramen by Andrea Wang and Kana Urbanowicz
People who have a full stomach are more peaceful. Momofuko Ando thought this while he worked in his lab on a quick, easy, and tasty recipe for ramen soup. His goal was to help the people who had to wait all day for soup after the war. This is the story of one man, his dedication to his cause, and the world’s favorite “easy soup.”
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson and Christian Robinson
A little girl named Florence loved to sing. She also liked her parents, who were once slaves. In fact, when people saw her beautiful singing and dancing, she knew that she couldn’t be happy without fighting the injustice that she saw every day.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley
As a young person, Ruth Bader Ginsberg had to learn that “disagreeing does not make you mean.” When Ginsberg was a child, this book was the first picture book that he made. In this book, kids learn about how one girl who stood up for what she thought and became the most popular Supreme Court judge.
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
People and the Earth are made of star stuff. In this quote from Carl Sagan: Learning about the stars was one of Carl Sagan’s favorite things to do when he was a little boy Carl’s trip to the 1939 World’s Fair opened up the world to him. He became a man who would launch satellites and teach people all over the world about the stars.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls
Many times, being told that something is not possible can make you want to do it even more. This is especially true when everyone else thinks you can’t do it! When Emmanuel Ofosu Yepoah was a little boy, he had only one leg. This is the true story of how he biked across the whole country of Ghana (almost 400 miles) and changed the way many in his country thought about people with disabilities.
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick and Don Tate
Effa Manley was a big baseball fan. In her free time, she liked to go to Yankee Stadium and see Babe Ruth swing for the fences. Soon, she was her own hero when she became the manager and owner of the Newark Eagles. There have never been any other women in the Baseball Hall of Fame because of her work with the Eagles. He shows us how to swing for the fences from a girl who lived in Philly all her life until she was an All-Star in the Hall of Fame.
Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio and Javaka Steptoe
Can someone make a picture with their voice? As a child, Jimi was just like other kids his age who loved to paint and listen to music. During his childhood, this is the story of how he saw the world in a unique way and became one of the most powerful people in the world.
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora
Mary Walker was born into a slave family. It was when she was 20 years old that she had her first child. She lived through a Civil War and two World Wars, and worked many many jobs. She finally learned how to read at the young age of 116, which shows that it’s never too late to follow your dreams and also that life can be very good.