17 Powerful Veterans Day Books to Read Aloud

Hi friends! Are you looking for Veterans Day books to read aloud in your elementary school library or classroom? This is an important holiday, to honor those who have served and continue to serve in our military service. Our veterans protect precious freedoms like the freedom to choose what we read! The Veterans Day books below are worth reading aloud AND adding to your school library collection. You may also find some of these titles on the Epic app.

This post includes Amazon affiliate links, which pay me a small percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you.

Twenty One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Candlewick Press provides a Discussion Guide to this moving picture book about the precision steps required of the guards who pay tribute to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. This is a powerful book about the sacrifice made by these guards, marching constantly, no matter the weather, since July 2, 1937.

The books is narrated by an imagined group of unknown soldiers, appreciating the comfort and companionship of the guards who stand sentinel. Illustrations by Matt Tavares bring the text to life with a glow.

In addition to asking the questions in the Discussion Guide, I recommend showing your students this 3-minute video from The Weather Channel to further illustrate the reality of the Twenty-One Steps.

This picture book is best for third grade and up.

Tuesday Tucks Me In

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog takes us through a typical day with Tuesday the service dog helping his soldier, struggling with PTSD. You can talk about point of view, since this story is told from the dog’s point of view. Your students can learn about a different kind of service dog, and it may help some of your students understand that their own feelings of stress and anxiety are shared by others.

This is the perfect Veterans Day book to read aloud for kindergarten through second grade because the dog holds their attention. (Spoiler alert: you will be very sad if you decide to research what happened to the author after this book was published.)

America’s White Table

Did you know that it’s a tradition to set up a white table where no one will sit? Although this is perhaps more appropriate to Memorial Day, the white table is a symbol for falling or missing service members. In this picture book, a girl and her sisters set up the white table, while their mother explains the symbolism of the table arrangement.

The author, Margot Theis Raven, also wrote Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot, another great military picture book you could read aloud for Veterans Day.

This book is recommended for third grade and up who will be able to understand the symbolism of the white table.

Hero Mom

This picture book shows diverse mothers serving in our military and facing deployment. The children in the book compare their moms to superheroes. For example: “My mom doesn’t leap over tall buildings–she builds them.” Your students will get to see a variety of military jobs in the watercolor illustrations. With only a sentence on each page, this is a great read-aloud for younger elementary students, like kindergarten through second grade.

The overall message is reassurance, reminding children that they can still “feel their super love” even when their hero moms are far away.

The author also wrote Hero Dad, a similar picture book about military fathers which is also worth adding to your collection, especially if you live in a military community like ours in San Antonio.

Year of the Jungle: Memories from the Home Front

Year of the Jungle book for Veterans Day

You know Suzanne Collins as the author of the Hunger Games trilogy and Gregor the Overlander. In this autobiographical picture book, she shares her memories of her father going to serve in the Vietnam War. The child’s point of view is perfect for sharing a child’s anxiety, watching war news on television and waiting for postcards from her father. He does come home safely, but changed from the experience.

I recommend sharing this book with your 2nd and 3rd grade students, especially if you want to increase empathy for those students with deployed family members. In this 3-minute video, author Suzanne Collins and illustrator James Proimos talk together about creating the book and how the illustration style lightened a heavy subject.

The Wall

You may have already heard of Eve Bunting’s 1990 picture book, telling the story of a young boy and his father visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D. C. to find the grandfather’s name. They see a veteran in a wheelchair, and a grandfather who served but lived. This is a somber, reverent book about the sacrifices our soldiers make. I have a hard time reading this one without crying.

The Reading Rainbow episode is available on YouTube. You could view the YouTube video from the 50 second mark through 8:20 to hear the book read aloud. The Reading Rainbow episode continues to interview architect Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam War Memorial, through 13:50. She talks about the choices she made in the design, and why she made those choices.

My Red Balloon

This is the perfect Veterans Day book for your youngest students, like Kindergarten, especially if you want to avoid mentioning guns or death. It tells the story of a boy carrying a red balloon so his daddy can find him among all the families waiting at the pier for their returning Navy sailors. Eve Bunting keeps this picture book simple, stating only that the father was “making sure our country stays safe.” She focuses on the joy that a family feels when their loved ones return from serving our country.

After reading the book together, you can review the illustrations and ask students to tell you what they think the characters were feeling, based on the pictures. You might also share a nonfiction picture book about a Navy ship, if you have one in your collection.

Shooting at the Stars

One Christmas Eve during World War I, Allied and German soldiers set down their weapons and celebrated the holiday together, with carols, gifts, and Christmas trees. This fictional account highlights the hopeful humanity of soldiers on both sides of a conflict. Its depiction of life in the trenches of war will be more appropriate for older elementary students.

The text is handwritten as a letter from a fictional soldier to his mother, marveling at the kindness of soldiers exchanging biscuits and buttons and belts. After reading this book together, discuss with your students what the title means and what they notice in the illustrations. They may observe that the cold blue tones of the battle scenes turn into warm orange shades as the soldiers connect during the truce.

Letters to a Soldier

This is one of my personal favorites. Letters to a Soldier is an engaging read-aloud because it’s a series of actual letters from fourth grade students to a soldier serving in Iraq in 2008. They ask the questions that real students ask, like “do you have a pet?” We get to see the students’ handwritten letters and drawings as well as the soldier’s photographs. All of the correspondence is kind, respectful and upbeat and doesn’t mention danger or death.

Because this book is longer, with a couple of paragraphs on each page, I recommend sharing it with your older elementary students who have more stamina to listen. Or you could share just a few pages with your younger students, so that they can see the photographs of a soldier in uniform.

The Impossible Patriotism Project

In this picture book, Caleb is stumped about what to do for his patriotism project. Because his father is serving in the military, he can’t even be there for Parents’ Night anyway. If you’re looking for a book to help your students understand the abstract concept of patriotism, this is the one.

I recommend that you read it by yourself first, if you don’t like to cry happy tears in front of your class. The ending is very moving, as we see a double-age spread shows the deployed father’s happiness at being recognized in his son’s school project. The story shows the pride that families of deployed service members can feel.

Follow this read-aloud with a STEAM challenge, asking your students to draw or create something that shows patriotism and explain to the class what they created.

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and her tribute to veterans

This book would work for Memorial Day, too, if your school is in session at that time. The Poppy Lady tells the story of a school teacher who worked during World War I to establish the red poppy as the symbol to honor veterans. Her determination is a great role model for our students, and you’ll enjoy sharing this biography of a woman who persevered in working toward her goal.

A portion of the book’s proceeds supports the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple(R), which benefits children of the U.S. military.

You could combine this read-aloud with an art activity to make red poppies. You could also share th:is YouTube video about the story of the red poppy.

Crow Call

This picture book tells the story of a girl and her father getting to know each other after his service in World War II. A mentor text for personal narrative, this book is based on Newbery Medalist author Lois Lowry’s own experience and is beautiful both in illustration and description.

I recommend this story for third grade and up, to understand the emotional difficulty of trying to reconnect with a parent after they’ve been deployed overseas. Simple, everyday items like an oversized flannel shirt and a slice of cherry pie help to rebuild the relationship between two family members who feel like strangers.

In this video from the National Book Festival, from 9:20 to 23:40, Lois Lowry reads parts of the book and talks about its creation and her memories that inspired it.

Brave Like Me

Veterans Day book Brave Like Me

This National Geographic book focuses on the families of veterans and how they must be brave as they wait for their veteran to return from deployment.  The photographs show diverse military families coping with a parent’s absence. Sharing this heartfelt book will help students develop empathy for the military kids at your school. Brave Like Me is perfect for kindergarten through second or third grade.

The story is told from the child’s point of view, with text like “Dad gives me a huge kiss. Mom wraps me up in a hug big enough to last the whole time she’s away.” Even though the story is narrated by one boy and one girl, the photographs show all kinds of children and families impacted by military deployment. The reunion photos at the end of the book are especially joyful. Back matter for this Veterans Day book include resources for children coping with deployed parents, making it a helpful addition to your school library collection.

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder book for Veterans Day

Kate Messner writes in rhyming text about a boy and his grandfather riding in the Rolling Thunder motorcycle parade in Washington, D.C. The grandfather is riding a motorcycle for “friends he lost in Vietnam,” while the grandson rides in the sidecar, excited to be part of the parade. This story is a moving tribute to our veterans, seen through the eyes of a child.

The parade was discontinued in 2019 due to difficulties with law enforcement and permits, but returned in 2023. I recommend sharing the 2-minute video of the 2019 Rolling Thunder parade. It will help students understand the sight of all of those motorcycles gathered together in a parade, and it also shows the respect that the service members have for each other.

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle

Nubs was a wild dog in Iraq before Marine Major Brian Dennis befriended him, giving him food and a warm place to sleep. When Major Dennis and the Marines relocate 70 miles away, Nubs makes an incredible journey in freezing temperatures  to follow him. This is an inspiring story, with a happy ending and a glimpse into life in a combat zone. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade will enjoy this Veterans Day book, although you may need to skip some of the text to shorten the book for your younger students.

You can find a lesson plan for Nubs from the California Young Reader Medal here.

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot book for Veterans Day

Mercedes, a young German girl, tells the story of the Berlin Airlift during World War II. Pilot Gail Halvorsen not only delivered life-saving food and supplies into war-torn West Berlin, he also took time to drop candy and write letters to a worried little girl. Mercedes, like many other children, was worried about where her next meals would come from as the enemy surrounded them. Based on true events, this is a powerful story about kindness and how it can bring hope to people in difficult situations.

You can use the lesson plan from Sleeping Bear Press to add a sequence of events activity, letter writing, quote matching, or skit writing, after you read this Veterans Day book together. You can also see a video interview with Gail Halvorsen in this 2-minute video from the United States Air Force.

Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero

Reckless horse book for Veterans Day

Sergeant Reckless was a brave little horse trained to be a Marine packhorse during the Korean War. She heroically carried heavy ammunition into battle, earning two Purple Hearts and becoming the only animal to hold a military rank.

Your third-fifth grade students will enjoy this underdog story of this horse’s courageous perseverance, as well as the fun parts where she enjoys chocolate and Coca-Cola.

After reading this Veterans Day book together, you can perform this reader’s theater script or discuss the questions in this educator’s guide from HarperCollins.

Veterans Day Books and Lesson Ideas

In addition to the ideas shared above, you can find more free Veterans Day lessons  at the NEA website, create an American Flag Collaboration poster, Paint a Veterans Heart with markers, or perform a Veterans Day Readers Theater!

Save this post for later: click on the image below to save this blog post to Pinterest, so you can remember it for next year, too!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your recommendations! I am currently reading Tuesday Tucks Me In to classes and students like the book. After receiving your post, I researched the author and I am truly saddened by the news of Luis’s passing.

    2. Great list! I always read America’s White Table. I have read Poppy Lady and The Wall as well as Hero Dad….but now there’s Hero Mom and many others you mentioned that are new to me! Thank you! Going to check them out!

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