13 Thanksgiving Books for ELLs

13 Thanksgiving Books for ELLs

There are Thanksgiving books on a range of topics to share with students. One theme I like to focus on around Thanksgiving is gratitude and being thankful.  Students can read and listen to what others are thankful for and then write and talk about what they are thankful for.

Families have many unique traditions around Thanksgiving. Immigrant families often add in their own cultural traditions to this holiday. Books are a great way for kids to learn about some of these traditions. They are also helpful for ELLs to read about families where Thanksgiving is a new concept.

November is an ideal time for students to learn about the history of Thanksgiving. There are many new books that give information about multiple perspectives and historically accurate information on the history of Thanksgiving. Discover new Thanksgiving books to read with your students. You can also read about Thanksgiving activities to use with your ELLs.

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Books About Being Thankful

I am Thankful– This is a simple to read book that follows a young boy as he gets ready for and celebrates Thanksgiving with his family. It can be used to begin a conversation about Thanksgiving family traditions or as a guided reading book for students reading around a first-grade level.


We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga- Learn about the Cherico tradition of gratitude through the seasons. This book also gives examples of Cherodi traditions and history. The illustrator’s web page includes a teacher’s guide that goes with the book.

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message- This is a book of thanks written by Chief Jake Swamp of the Mohawk Nation. It gives reasons to be thankful for the nature around us. Lee and Low Books has a teacher guide that accompanies this book.


The Thankful Book– This book gives examples of things to be thankful for. It follows the sentence pattern of I am thankful for _______ because _________. This book would make a good mentor text to go along with a speaking or writing activity where students share what they are thankful for and tell why.

Thanksgiving Read Alouds- Books About Immigrants


Molly’s Pilgrim-This is a book I loved reading as a student for the plot and now can see all the great cultural and academic connections. It is a story about a girl that finds similarities between her own immigrant story and that of the pilgrims. (compare and contrast, story elements, character traits)

Duck for Turkey Day– Tuyet is nervous that her family will not have turkey on Thanksgiving. In the end, she discovers that many of her classmates also had other dishes for their Thanksgiving meal. This book can help students discuss the blending of traditions during Thanksgiving.



How Many Days to America-This is an immigrant story about a group of refugees fleeing to America. It tells about the difficulty of their journey. Finally, they arrive on Thanksgiving day. (story elements, making inferences)



Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade¬†-Tells the story of Tony Sarg, the puppeteer who began designing the oversized balloons for the Macy’s Day Parade. In addition, this story emphasizes the contributions of immigrants to the parade. (story elements, sequencing)

The History of Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks The 1621 Harvest Feast– This book is told from the perspective of an English boy and Wampanoag. It gives information about life during the 1600s in Massachusetts and what may have happened during what many believe is the first Thanksgiving.

Celebrate Thanksgiving– Gives information about the history of Thanksgiving, how people celebrated the holiday in the past, Native American traditions, and different ways families celebrate the holiday today.


1621 a New Look at Thanksgiving– This book gives a historically accurate about the history of Thanksgiving. There are photographs of reenactors throughout the book. The text is complex but can be used as a read-aloud for elementary ELLs.



Pilgrims of Plymouth-This book tells what life was like for Pilgrim children. It uses reenactment photographs to illustrate the information. (point of view, compare and contrast)

Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times– Learn about the everyday life of a Wampanoag child. (point of view, compare and contrast)

Thanksgiving books for ELLs

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