Biographies: Courageous, Diverse Role Models for Students

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Suggested Grade Level: K – 6

Length of Time: Varies


  • For students to use literature to expand their perception of activities and careers.
  • Students will find role models of people who have excelled in their chosen fields.

Objectives (varies by grade level)

  • Students will engage in discussions about the lives of prominent people.
  • Students will read non-fiction texts for understanding.
  • Students will research, write and present reports on the lives of prominent people.

Academic Standards

  • CCSS RL 2.1 Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text. Also RL 1.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1,
  • CCSS W.6.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. Also 1.2, 2.2, 3.2, 4.2, 5.2.
  • CCSS SL 3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. Also SL 4.1, 5.1, 6.1
  • Social Studies Strand 4: Individual Development and Identity – Examine the factors that influence an individual’s personal identity, development, and actions including family, peers, culture, and institutional influences.

Educators’ Notes

Throughout the elementary school years, biography lessons and assignments are a common topic. Books are read aloud by teachers or students are assigned to research historic or prominent individuals.

The following list feature a range of people who have excelled in their fields often overcoming stereotypes of gender or race. Some are well known such as Rosa Parks or Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss.) Others are not, such as Effa Manley, the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame because of her role as owner and business manager of the Newark Eagles in the Negro National League. Or, Tomás Rivera, a migrant farmworker who grew up to become a Chancellor at the University of California.

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26 Fairmount Avenue, Tomie dePaola, 2001.

100 Women Who Made History, DK. 2017.

Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (Big Words) Doreen Rappaport and Kadir Nelson, 2008.

Alice Walker: Author and Social Activist, Stephanie Fitzgerald, , 2008.

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, Tanya Lee Stone, 2009.

Alvin Ailey, Andrea Pinkney, 1995.

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, Pam Muñoz Ryan & Brian Selznick, 1999.

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World, Cynthia Chin-Lee, 2005.

Amy Tan: Weaver of Asian-American Tales (Authors Teens Love) Ann Angel, 2009.

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, Melissa Sweet, (Tony Sarg, puppeteer) 2011.

Beautiful Warrior, Emily Arnold McCully, 1998.

Benjamin Banneker: Pioneering Scientist, Ginger Wadsworth, 2003.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition, William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer and Elizabeth Zunon, 2012.

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation, Andrea Davis Pinkney, 2008.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909, Michelle Markel, Balzer and Bray, 2013.

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics, Margarita Engle, 2017.

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, Selina Alko, 2015.

Coretta Scott, Ntozake Shange, 2011.

Dance, Bill T. Jones & Susan Kuklin, 1998.

Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer, Li Cunxin, 2008.

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, Duncan Tonatiuh, 2011.

DK Biography A Photographic Story of a Life, Series. (Amelia Earhart, Annie Oakley, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, and Mother Teresa)

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, Sarah Warren, 2012.

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression, Carole Boston Weatherford, 2017.

Drawing From Memory, Allen Say, 2011. (Autobiography, author)

The Dreamer, Pam Muñoz Ryan, 2010. (Based on the life of Pablo Neruda.)

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music, Margarita Engle, 2015.

Dzání Yázhí Naazbaa’: Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home, Evangeline Parsons Yazzie & Irving Toddy (Illustrator), 2006. (Navajo / English)

Eleanor, Barbara Cooney, 1999.

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble. Doreen Rappaport, 2016.

Ellen Ochoa: First Latina Astronaut, Lila Guzman, 2006.

Emma’s Poem, Linda Glaser, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. (Emma Lazarus, poet, Statue of Liberty)

Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman, Monica Kulling and Teresa Flavin, 2000.

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington's Slave Finds Freedom, Emily Arnold McCully, 2007.

Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior, Robert D. San Souci, 2000.

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington, Jabari Asim, 2012.

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial. Susan E. Goodman. 2016.

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman, Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger & Teresa Flavin (Illustrator), 2001. 

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story, Rebecca Langston-George, 2016

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, Walter Dean Myers, 2017.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi. 2017.

A Free Woman On God's Earth: The True Story of Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman, The Slave Who Won Her Freedom, Jana Laiz, Ann-Elizabeth Barnes, and Jacqueline Rogers, 2009.

Frida, Jonah Winter and Ana Juan. 2002. In English or Spanish (Frida Kahlo)

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, Duncan Tonatiuh, 2015.

Gandhi: A March to the Sea, Alice B. McGinty, 2013.

Genius: A Photobiography of Albert Einstein, Marfé Furguson Delano. 2005.

George Washington Carver: The Peanut Wizard, Laura Driscoll, 2003.

Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude, Jonah Winter, 2009. (Gertrude Stein)

Girls Rebel!: Amazing Tales of Women Who Broke the Mold, Heather E. Schwartz. 2013.

Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, Catherine Thimmesh, 2002.

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America, Brian and Andrea Davis Pinkney, 2012.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, Kathleen Krull, 2003.

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President, Ann Malaspina and Steve James.

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette 'Daisy' Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure, Shana Corey and Hadley Hooper, 2012.

Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition, Margot Lee Shetterly, 2017.

Hillary Clinton: The Life of a Leader, Shana Corey, 2016.

Hoops with Swoopes: Picture Book, Sheryl Swoopes & Susan Kuklin, 2001.

A Horn for Louis, Eric A.Kimmel, 2006.

How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln: The Story Behind the Nation's First Female Detective. Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, 2016.

I Am Sacagawea, Grace Norwich, 2012.

I Am Jackie Robinson, Brad Meltzer, 2015.   

I Am Jazz, Jessica Herthel, 2014

I Am Rosa Parks, Brad Meltzer. 2014.

I Could Do That! Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote, Linda Arms White, 2006.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, Debbie Levy, 2016. 

I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer, Carole Boston Weatherford, 2007.

I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War, Anita Silvey, 2008.

Ida B Wells: Let the Truth Be Told, Walter Dean Myers2008.

Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress, Trish Marx, 2006.

Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets. Kathleen Krull, 2011.

Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, Gary Golio, 2010.

John Muir: America's First Environmentalist, Kathryn Lasky, 2006.

Jose! Born to Dance, Susanna Reich, 2005.

Julia Morgan Built a Castle, Celeste Davidson Mannis, 2006. (Architect)

Jyotirmayee Mohapatra: Advocate for India's Young Women, Adam Woog. 2006.

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, Kay Harding, 2017.

Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer, Robert Byrd, 2003.

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, Andrea Davis Pinkney, 2001.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, Jeanette Winter, 2005.

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought), Kathleen Krull, 2000.

Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer, Robert Burleigh, 2013.

Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics, Catherine Thimmesh, 2008.

Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens, Nina Nolan, 2015.

Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery. Jeanette Winter, 2014.

March. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor, Emily Arnold McCully, 2006.

Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero, Cheryl Harness, 2013.

Maya Angelou (Little People, Big Dreams), Lisbeth Kaiser, 2016.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines, Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017.

Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen, Marissa Moss, 2004.

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney, 2000.

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children. Jan Pinborough. 2013.

Molly Bannaky, Alice McGill and Chris K. Soentpiet, 1999.

Mo'ne Davis: Remember My Name: My Story from First Pitch to Game Changer. Mo'ne Davis and Hilary Beard, 2015.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. Carole Boston Weatherford, 2006.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda, Alicia Potter. 2012.

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Christine King Farris and Chris Soentpiet, 2005.

My Last Skirt: The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Lynda Durrant, Union Soldier, 2006.

My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez/Me llamo Gabito: la vida de Gabriel García Márquez Monica Brown, 2007.

My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream? Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. (Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell)

Nasreen’s Secret School: a True Story from Afghanistan, Jeanette Winter, 2009.

Nelson Mandela, Kadir Nelson, 2013.

Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of “Brave Bessie” Coleman, Reeve Lindbergh, 1998.

Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson, Sue Stauffacher, 2007. (First African-American female tennis champion.)

Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero, Marissa Moss, 2011.

Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia, D. Anne Love, 2006. (Mathematician and philosopher of ancient Alexandria)

On The Court With...Venus And Serena Williams, Matt Christopher, 2002.

Oprah: The Little Speaker. Carole Boston Weatherford, 2012.

The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall. Heather Lang, 2015.

Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change, Michelle Cook, 2009.

Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca, Deborah Kogan Ray, 2012.

Patience Wright: America’s First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy, Pegi Deitz Shea, 2007.

Paul Robeson. Eloise Greenfield, 2009.

Pemba Sherpa, Olga Cossi, 2009. (An early woman Sherpa guide)

The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen, Jane Yolen & Dennis Nolan, 2006.

Phillis's Big Test, Catherine Clinton, 2008. (Phillis Wheatley)

Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum, Robert A. Parker, 2008.

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, Claire A. Nivola, 2008.

The Poet King of Tezcoco, Francisco Serrano, 2007. (Nezahualcóyotl)

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, Don Tate, 2015.

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, Juan Felipe Herrera, 2014.

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis, Jabari Asim, 2016.

Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson, Amy Ehrlich & Wendell Minor (Illustrator), 2003.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! Kate Schatz, 2015.

Rebel with a Cause: The Daring Adventure of Dicey Langston, Girl Spy of the American Revolution, Kathleen V. Kudlinski, 2016.

Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist, Q. L. Pearce, 2011.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, Jen Bryant, 2008. 

Roller Derby Rivals,  Sue Macy, 2014.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. Duncan Tonatiuh, 2015.

Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing, James Rumford, 2004.

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, Audrey Vernick, 2010.

She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader, J.G. Annino, 2010.

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, Paula Yoo and Lin Wang, 2009.

Side by Side/Lado a Lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez, Monica Brown and Joe Cepeda.

Sioux Code Talkers of World War II, Andrea Page, 2017.

Sisters Against Slavery: A Story About Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Stephanie Sammartino McPherson & Karen Ritz (Illustrator), 2004.

Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride, Andrea Pinkney, 2009.

Sonia Sototmayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx, Jonah Winter, Atheneum, Bilingual edition, 2009.

The Story of Ruby Bridges, Robert Coles, 2004.

The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos, Lucía González, 2008. (Pura Belpré)

A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, Michelle Y. Green, 2004.

Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-girl Swing Band in the World, Marilyn Nelson, 2009.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery and Temple Grandin, 2012.

The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses, Series by Shirin Yim Bridges, Goosebottom Books, 2010.  (Hatshepsut of Egypt, Nur Jahan of India, Sorghaghtani of Mongolia, Isabella of Castile, Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman, and Artemisia of Caria.)

Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay, The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest, Robert Burleigh, 2006.

Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo,  Monica Brown, Rayo, 2013.

To Go Singing Through the World: The Childhood of Pablo Neruda, Deborah Kogan Ray. 2006.

Tomás and the Library Lady, Pat Mora and Raul Colon, 2000. (Tomás Rivera)

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper. Ann Malaspina, 2012.

Uncle Andy's: A Faabbbulous Visit with Andy Warhol, James Warhola, 2003.

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker, Kathryn Lasky, 2007.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, Carole Boston Weatherford, 2015

A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave, Poet, Kathryn Lasky, 2003.

Walt Whitman: Words for America, Barbara Kerley and Brian Selznick, 2004.

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with Chimps, Jeanette Winter, 2011.

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin, Larry Dane Brimner, 2007.

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson, Pam Muñoz Ryan, 2002.

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 2013.

Who Is Michelle Obama? Megan Stine, 2013.

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, Tanya Lee Stone, 2013.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. Rachel Ignotofsky. 2016.

Women Who Broke the Rules Series including Sonia Sotomayor, Dolley Madison, Judy Blume, Coretta Scott King, Sacajawea, Mary Lincoln Todd, 2015.

Women Who Launched the Computer Age, Laurie Calkhoven, 2016.

Yo-Yo & Yeou-Cheng Ma, Finding Their Way: Amazing Asian Americans, Ai-Ling Louie, 2012.       

You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer: A Very Improper Story, Shana Corey, 2000.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, Cynthia Levinson. 2017.

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist, Philip Dray, 2008.

Zora!: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, Dennis Brindell Fradin, 2012.