Christian Biographies for Young Readers: Our Favorite Recommendations

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At Sonlight, we believe that reading should not be just educational, but transformational. With this goal in mind, we include our favorite Christian biographies for young readers at most levels of our curriculum. We believe that these carefully selected books will serve to both inform and inspire both you and your children in unexpected ways. Keep reading to learn why we think Christian biographies are among the best reading choices for your children.

mom reads to three children

Why Should Children Read Christian Biographies?

A great life story can be life-changing and inspiring. While history and reading are central to all Sonlight curriculum levels, we include different kinds of literature and reading, including biographies for children, missionary stories, and novels. Christian biographies for young readers are a central piece of Sonlight specifically because they so artfully combine history and personal stories of the people who lived that history. 

We know that stories are always more memorable than mere date/time/place history learned from a textbook. Children will always be more engaged in the story of history, which is the primary reason we include a biography or two in nearly every Sonlight level. Children will tend to have a well-rounded view of a biographical character and their place in history after reading their story.

What Are the Best Children's Christian Biographies?

As a Christian curriculum provider, we lean toward choosing characters in history who have expressed faith and who also have relevant stories for our children to read. We believe that reading and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of these true-life people can be instructional and encouraging for young people. Many of our favorite Christian biographies for children may be a starting place for future study later.

Many adult-sized biographies would be overwhelming for younger children, in particular, so we have carefully chosen Christian biographies for young readers to suit different ages and reading maturity levels.

We have many selections from the series Christian Heroes: Then and Now, for instance, that are fast-paced, engaging, and just the right length to hold the kids' attention.

Why Read Biographies Aloud to Your Kids?

Reading aloud is far more than sharing a story with your children. The Read-Aloud Handbook, a million-copy bestseller, shared groundbreaking research on the benefits of reading aloud to children for their academic development, Author Jim Trelease subsequently lectured in all 50 states and overseas, advocating the benefits of reading aloud to children. For more on this topic see Jim’s free parent handouts. Since reading aloud is so good for you and your children, why not include favorite Christian biographies for young readers?

What Other Christian Biographies Should Kids Read?

While many of the Christian biographies for young readers sets in our curriculum are selected for their connection to the specific Bible / History / Literature level, we also believe that the right biography may spark an interest in other areas of study as in the arts or science. We have several curated lists for some of these categories:

How Do I Write a Christian Biography About Myself? 

Reading the life stories of fascinating people in history can be a great impetus for your children to write their own stories as a language arts assignment. These do not necessarily have to be difficult and may be a work in progress as your children mature. Learning to think chronologically and to consider cause and effect in their life events are useful skills.

A few good places to start for your children is to ask them to respond to the following prompts:

  • Tell about a time you overcame obstacles.
  • Tell your faith story.
  • Give an account of a life-changing experience in your life.
  • Tell about people, books, and experiences that had an influence on you.

For younger writers, encourage them to think through the simpler points of their life stories:

  • Where and when were you born?
  • Tell about your immediate family.
  • What is unique about you? What do you enjoy doing?
  • Include some specific memorable experiences in your life.
  • Tell about your home and the town you live in.

What Are the Types of Biographies?

Biographies can be generally grouped into a few categories--share these with your children so they can identify what type of biography they are reading.

  • Autobiographies—first-person accounts of a person’s life.
  • Biographies—accounts of a person’s life written by another person, usually using historical accounts, documents, letters, speeches, etc. of the person.
  • Memoirs—also written in first-person but usually just covering a narrow part of a person’s life story, such as their experiences during World War II.
  • Novelized Biographies, sometimes called creative non-fiction—where the majority of the story is true and based on known facts as a biography above, but the dialogue and some aspects of the story may be imagined, simplified or combined for a smoother reading experience. Many, but not all of our selections for children fall into this category.
two kids show off their homeschool books

Where Can I Get Great Biographies for Young Children?

Sonlight is an excellent source of favorite Christian biographies. As we discover new Christian biographies at Sonlight, we occasionally add or adjust our titles in our homeschool curriculum packages. You can view some of our favorites listed below from younger grade levels to higher ones. Some of these, like Little House in the Big Woods and Little Britches, are part of a larger Christian biography series.

1. Little House in the Big Woods  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature K

The first in the Little House on the Prairie stories finds Laura living with Pa and Ma and her sisters Mary and baby Carrie in a log cabin in the Wisconsin woods. The late 1870's setting provides a glimpse into long-ago times. These stories have long been loved by young and old. Reads like fiction but these are true accounts. 

2. Out of Darkness  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature A

Louis Braille suffered the loss of his eyesight as a young boy, but overcame his difficulties and went on to pioneer the alphabet used by the blind worldwide. This account follows his life from a young age through his time at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. 

3. Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature A

Johnny Appleseed has long been a man of myth and legend, but John Chapman was a real person born in 1774 in Massachusetts! Children will enjoy this story of the man who planted apple trees across an emerging nation and became a folk hero. 

4. Mary on Horseback  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature A

Mary Breckinridge is a little-known hero who established the Frontier Nursing Service in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1920s. Mary brought medical care to the remote towns and people via horseback! 

5. The Lewis & Clark Expedition  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature D

Many accounts of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s overland expedition exist, but this is an accessible book perfect for young readers. Follow along as these Americans and their team explore “the interior parts of North America,” to the Pacific Ocean. Follow along on a map! 

6. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature D

This is an account no one should miss. See how young Nathaniel Bowditch overcame poverty, dashed educational dreams, and more to travel the world and become the father of modern maritime navigation. Children will be inspired by how this largely self-taught young man never gave up. 

7. Justin Morgan Had a Horse 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature D

The world-famous Morgan horse has a fascinating history in early America. This true story of a boy and a beloved horse is written by Marguerite Henry whose horse stories have delighted generations. 

8. Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature D

Your aspiring engineers and inventors will enjoy this true account of Robert Fulton who is credited as the inventor of the world’s first commercially successful steamboat. Follow him from his early days of discovery to this world-changing invention and beyond. 

9. One Voice: The Story of William Wilberforce 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature E

One of the most powerful stories your children can read about how one person committed to a cause can truly change history and make an enormous difference in the world. William Wilberforce fought for decades to end the Slave Trade in Great Britain. He lived to see the success of his work. Inspiring and humbling. 

10. Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature E

Ralph Moody paints a poignant memoir of his early years in Colorado after his family moves there for his father’s health. Ranch life is hard with fights over water rights, storms, poverty, and death, but the family perseveres. This early 1900s true story will leave you with a catch in your throat. You may want to read the whole autobiographical series! 

11. Freedom Train

From Sonlight’s History / Bible / Literature E

This is an excellent account of Harriet Tubman, a Black former slave who spent years rescuing slaves from the south via the Underground Railroad. The risks she took and her successes will encourage and inspire you and your children.

12. Helen Keller  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature E

Tragically, Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing in a severe illness when she was young. A strong and caring teacher persevered to open the world again for Helen who went on to college and more, overcoming her limitations.

13. George Washington Carver 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature E

A very readable account of George Washington Carver, who began life as a slave but grew up to be a famous agricultural scientist and inventor. He pioneered alternative crops to prevent soil depletion from over-farming cotton, found hundreds of uses for peanuts and more. 

14. A Long Walk to Water  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature F

A dual account of Nya in Sudan who walks eight hours a day for water and Salva who is a “lost boy” refugee in the same war-torn country. Salva’s story is gripping and often frightening as he overcomes numerous hardships. He eventually returns to his home country to help his people and find his family. Touching and poignant. Videos of the author sharing his story are available online. 

15. Mary Jones & Her Bible

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature H

Mary Jones was a poor girl living in Wales. She worked for years to earn enough money to buy a copy of the Bible in Welsh, walking a long distance alone to acquire one. This unforgettable story shows young people not only her determination but her devotion to the Scriptures. 

16. The Story of Science: Newton at the Center  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature J

The stories behind the science are sometimes the most fascinating parts! Learn from scientific advances from Newton and Brahe and more. Short, compelling biographies of several scientists reveal the stories behind the discoveries, including the failures and triumphs! 

17. Freedom Walkers  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature 100

Most people have heard of Rosa Parks and her famous refusal to give up her bus seat. That story was the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott! This account details the how and why and what of the boycotters and the courage they displayed risking their personal safety and more. How did they change the world? You’ll have to read it! 

18. The Great Little Madison 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature 100

This little volume by the beloved Jean Fritz tells the story of the "Father of the Constitution," James Madison. Fritz has a knack for including fascinating tidbits about the characters she writes about.

19. The Cross and the Switchblade 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature 100

A gripping account for older student readers (mature subjects) of how a pastor is called to New York City to minister to gangs, drug addicts, and more. This modern classic is a must-read. 

20. Farewell to Manzanar  

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature 100

Too many generations in America are not aware of the detention of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. This first-person account is a true story of how one girl and her family faced this harrowing experience and persevered in the Manzanar Camp behind barbed wire in California. 

21. The Hiding Place

From Sonlight 20th Century World History

This powerful story may change your life. A staunchly Christian Dutch family chooses to hide Jews after their country is occupied by the Nazis in World War II. Their devotion to protecting “God’s people” nearly cost them everything. Gripping, challenging, uplifting. 

22. Up From Slavery 

From Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature 400

In studying US history, no one should miss Booker T. Washington’s account of his life from slavery to freedom. This devout Christian man went on to become an educator, author, and adviser to several American presidents.

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