Even in this age of information technology, real books still trump all other forms of communication – and that includes eBooks.

There’s a reason why literature for children is fuelling the most lucrative aspect of the literature industry. Everyone seems to agree that there’s still no better gift for a child than a new book. Bedtime stories seem to be a universal ritual where parents have the opportunity to connect with their children paging through picture books or reading their favourite classic books from their own childhood.

Reading Together Creates Beautiful Bonds

Reading books together with your child is a bonding experience, which is one of ten benefits of reading to children that are listed in this article by child psych. As children read good books they not only expand their general knowledge and cognitive skills but they also learn empathy.

If you’re at a loss of what next book you should be reading to your little one, remember that story telling is just as valuable as reading; kids love hearing tales of the “olden days”!  Another great option is simply reciting nursery rhymes or singing a special song together before bedtime; you don’t have to read books every bedtime.

Parents often make the mistake of assuming that bedtime stories should be jolly fairy tales but this isn’t the case at all.

By reading more serious literature such as a book about spaceflight or a prize winning memoir like Roald Dahl’s “Boy”, children are afforded the opportunity to discuss new and important concepts with Mom or Dad.

You may be surprised at how much they can actually understand.

fairytale castle
Parents can make the mistake of believing that bedtime stories should be magical tales of castles and unicorns - Unsplash

It would be unrealistic to expect a toddler to get excited about colonialism or the industrial revolution. But if you were to introduce them to a picture book about the history of the world this would be a wonderful way of exposing them to the concept of history in general and preparing them for the study of history at school.

As kids get older you can see what aspects of history they are drawn to such as Ancient Egypt or the Middle Ages and explore these topics in greater detail.

Let’s Explore Some Great History Books for Young Readers

It’s clear that having a basic understanding of world history is very valuable for children. We can’t just rely on the school curriculum and prescribed textbooks to teach them about their place in the world. You can expose youngsters to human history by reading historical fiction which can be very riveting. But of course there are plenty of wonderful nonfiction books that take a detailed look at various aspects of modern history such as the American Revolution or the Second World War.

These are some of our suggested books:

Books You Should Read for Babies and Toddlers


A Is For Activist 
Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist is a bestselling alphabet book for children and the debut work of Innosanto Nagara a committed activist himself. He was motivated to create this beautiful hardback book out of a desire to read a book with his own children that was politically educational.

According to book reviews, “This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future."


Look Inside Mummies And Pyramids
Usborne Books

This lovely lift-the-flap book allows young readers to explore the fascinating Empires of Ancient Egypt and particularly the rites and rituals that the Pharaohs initiated in order to prepare them for the afterlife.

The lovely illustrations and explanations provide a detailed peek into an ancient world. Look Inside Mummies and Pyramids is one of the many highly recommended books published by Usborne.

Books on History for 5-8 Year Olds


Politics for Beginners
Alex Frith

Politics for Beginners is a stunning introduction to politics full of info-graphic style illustrations and pointers to great informative websites.

This brightly illustrated masterpiece is the best book to turn to when kids have big questions about political systems. The clear text conveys complex issues like human rights, elections, fake news and feminism in terms that children can easily comprehend. A real must-read that you can easily buy on Takealot.com.


Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Abridged by C. Van Wyk

This is a beautifully abridged version of one of the most celebrated South African biographies, Long Walk to Freedom.

Reading of this book offers the youngest of readers the opportunity to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.  The large map and timeline really gives a wonderful visual guide to the movements of Mandela outlining his life in chronological order from early childhood all the way to his release from prison and presidency.

Long Walk to Freedom is definitely one of the African history books that should be on every family’s book list.

sculpture of Nelson Mandela
South African children recognise the face of 'Tata Madiba' but do they really know his legacy? - Unsplash

Best Historical Books for 9-12 Year Olds


The Diary of Anne Frank (Abridged for young readers)
Anne Frank

This version of one of the most famous memoirs from World War 2 has been specially adapted for younger readers as the original version is more suited for a young adult audience.

Anne’s diary provides a touching insight into the human element of war and will open up many opportunities for discussing complex issues such as racism as parents read along with their children. This particular edition contains stunning line drawings and family photographs. There is wonderful connecting commentary and an afterword that explains the abrupt ending to the diary. A heartbreaking, yet uplifting book.


Top 50 Kings and Queens
Terry Deary

If you aren’t yet a fan of the Horrible Histories series, you soon will be.

This series offers some of the best books to read if you’re trying to encourage your kids to read history books. Top 50 Kings and Queens is filled with disgusting snippets about “rotten royalty”. With typically gross Horrible History humour, your kids will find it engrossing (pun intended) from beginning to end.

The full colour layouts and illustrations by Martin Brown make this book a light hearted yet informative lesson on British monarchy; a bestseller that deserves a spot on your kids reading list.


Bombs and Blackberries
Julia Donaldson

Bombs and Blackberries was brought out to coincide with the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019. Written as a play for children to act out either at home or at school, this book allows children to understand and explore the life of a child growing up in Britain during the war.

Visit your local library to look for more great books about South African history and global history. Ask your librarian to point you towards interesting books and enquire about book suggestions for teens. As you take time exploring the internet you are bound to find a fantastic book online.

Getting Youngsters to Read History Books

There’s no shortage of distractions for kids these days, it’s hard enough to convince children to unplug and read a good book, let alone convince them to get excited about reading a history book! Yet reading is such a crucial medium for teaching our young ones about important issues which we can do from a young age with fun books full of interesting illustrations.

small boy reading book in library
Take note of what kind of books your kids are drawn to and use this to your advantage - Unsplash

Maybe this is the key, to get them started young – before they even learn to read.

Get Kids Involved With Story Time

As kids mature allow them to choose one of their favourite stories to read together, and as you read books to them, make it an interactive experience by asking questions. For instance you could prompt a response to the story from your youngster by asking something like “what happens next?” or “remind me what she did.”

Your Excitement Is Contagious

When you’re reading books to your children try to add as much drama as you can muster (even if it doesn’t come naturally at first).

Your enthusiasm is contagious and the delight on your child’s face will keep you going. Remember that you can make just about any book an enthralling adventure by adding a little bit of silliness and fun into story telling.

Try to find books that match their natural interests and consider going to the bookstore together to look for new books to read. You may discover new things about your child just by noting what books draw their attention.

Reading by Example

We must remember that the best way to instil good habits such as reading is by setting a good example.

Of course, for many of us feel we don’t have the time to read books and reading is a luxury we only set aside for summer holidays. But just try to foster a reading culture in your home by reading a newspaper every now and then instead of scrolling through the news on your phone or flipping through magazines instead of Pinterest.

cat on bookshelf filled with books
Make your home a place where reading material is common place and kids see you read - Unsplash

Maybe you could start having an allocated time in the evening or after school when all the devices are turned off and everyone spends a little time quietly reading a book.

It may seem like a colossal waste of your time and money at first, but the more books you purchase and place in their room, the greater the chances that they just might read a book. Eventually an interesting cover picture will pique their curiosity.

Explore specific topics in greater depth by looking for books focused on one aspect of history such as the history of the United States, Islamic history or the Roman Empire. “Just Google it” and look around for the best books to read on whatever topic your child seems interested in.

There are so many fantastic resources online with websites such as National Geographic Kids that provide wonderful quizzes, competitions and games on a huge variety of topics.

Need a History teacher?

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Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.