Girl with american flag with catholic homeschool family

Booklist: Reading Your Way Around America

Many of us remember the television show Reading Rainbow. It was memorable for the books it introduced us to through Levar Burton’s narration, but also for the earworm theme song that we can still recall decades later. “I can go anywhere…I can be anything.” These simple lines speak to literature’s extraordinary ability to literally open our minds to new vistas through the power of imagination. He who reads about France “travels” to France in his mind; she who reads Pride and Prejudice “becomes” Lizzy Bennett.  Reading is a medium that allows us access to all the collective experiences of the human race.

There are so many ways this aspect of reading can be utilized in a Catholic homeschool, but today I’d like to apply it to U.S. geography. During the younger ages, geography is often studied as ancillary to other subjects (ex., a history lesson on the growth of the United States will incorporate maps of the country at various times to help students understand the historical development of the country). In high school, geography is typically a subject in and of itself (for example, Homeschool Connections’ Physical Geography course with Mr. Campbell, which studies the earth’s ecosystems, landforms, and climate).

How can you utilize the imaginative power of reading to help your geography studies?

Consider “reading” your way around geography! This approach combines geographical studies with geographically-focused literature. So, if your student is spending the month studying California, they can also read literature set in California. If they are studying Virginia, they can read literature set in Virginia. This is an example of the “unit approach” to homeschooling that combines disciplines to give kids a more immersive experience of a subject.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “That sounds great, but how on earth can I find books for every state!? I have a hard enough time putting together reading lists as it is without trying to tie them into geography!”

That’s a fantastic question and a big one! There’s so much literature available from so many places it’s challenging to narrow it down. Below I’ve put together a starter list for you to work through. Most of these books are chapter books suitable for upper middle school; a few are high school level, and some are picture books for younger kids. As with any booklist, do your own research. Go through them with your child, look them up, and pick some out together.

I know not every state on this list has a lot of suggestions, but there are definitely more resources! If you need additional recommendations, there is a homeschooling blog called The Surly Housewife that has comprehensive listings of state books for kids broken down by age group and type (e.g., fiction books, non-fiction, picture books, etc.).

Of course, if you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can try to tie in literature not only with geography but with history as well, choosing books that focus on a specific time period in a specific state. But we’ll leave off that for another post; in the meantime, take a look at our list to get the cogs of your brain working!

As always, do your homework to make sure any books assigned to your child is appropriate.

Now for that state-by-state reading list…


  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

  • Balto, the Bravest Dog Ever
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London (also Canada)
  • This Old House by Joanne Wild
  • Water Sky by Jean Craighead George

  • Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry
  • We Live in the Southwest by Lois Lenski

  • Cotton in My Sack by Lois Lenski
  • Sarah Campbell: Tale of a Civil War Orphan by Nancy Dane
  • The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen

  • By the Great Horn Spoon
  • The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
  • Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes
  • Vallejo and the Four Flags by Esther J. Comstock
  • Blue Willow by Doris Gates
  • Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say (picture book) also covers Japan
  • The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp by Barry Denenberg
  • The Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi
  • Wait for Me, Life of Father Junipero Serra Sister Mary Helen Wallace, FSP
  • Westward the Bells (biography of Junipero Serra) Marion F. Sullivan
  • California Missions edited by Ralph B. Wright
  • The Decoration of the California Missions Norman Neuerburg
  • Saints of the California Missions by Norman Neuerburg
  • San Francisco Boy by Lois Lenski
  • Patty Reed’s Doll by Rachel Laurgaard
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • The Story of The Pony Express by R. Conrad Stein
  • The Miner Was a Bishop :The Pioneer Years of Patrick Manogue William Breault S.J.
  • Winter of Entrapment A New Look at the Donner Party Joseph A. King

  • Beany Malone series by Lenora Mattingly Weber
  • Little Britches by Ralph Moody
  • The Home Ranch by Ralph Moody

  • 26 Fairmount Avenue Series by Tomie de Paola
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
  • Flight into Spring by Bianca Bradbury
  • Flood Friday by Lois Lenski
  • Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

  • The Rescue Begins in Delaware by Cheri Pray Earl
  • Red Bird by Todd Doney

  • The Cross in the Sand by Michael Gannon
  • Secret Agents Four by Donald Sobol
  • Strawberry by Lois Lenski
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings

  • The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis
  • The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish
  • Ida Early Comes Over the Mountain by Robert Burch

  • Father Damien and the Bells by Arthur and Elizabeth Sheehan
  • The Quiet Light: Mother Marianne of Molokai by Eva K. Betz (Catholic Treasury Series)

  • Bonanza Girl by Patricia Beatty
  • Louly by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Year Walk by Ann Nolan Clark

  • From Slave to Priest: A Biography of Reverend Augustine Tolton, First Black American Priest of the U.S. by Sister Caroline Hemesath
  • Molly American Girl Stories

  • Turn Homeward, Hannalee by Patricia Beatty (also Georgia)
  • Floating House by Scott Sanders (also Ohio)
  • Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter
  • Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
  • Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter

  • The Luck of the Buttons by Ann Ylvisaker
  • Mary Ingalls on Her Own by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

  • Climbing Kansas Mountains by George Shannon (picture book)
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

  • Becky Landers, Frontier Warrior by Constance Lindsay Skinner
  • The Happy Little Family and the rest of the Fairchild Family Series by Rebecca Caudill

  • Bayou Suzette by Lois Lenski
  • The Louisiana Purchase (Landmark)
  • Mother Cabrini: Missionary to the World by Frances Parkinson Keyes

  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
  • Calico Bush by Rachel Field
  • One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
  • The Secret of Pooduck Island by Alfred Noyes
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
  • The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo
  • L is for Lobster by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
  • Keep the Lights Burning Abbie by Peter Roop and Connie Roop
  • Birdie’s Lighthouse by Deborah Hopkinson
  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  • Island Boy by Barbara Cooney
  • A Penny for a Hundred by Ethel Pochocki

  • Charles Carroll and the American Revolution by Milton Lomask
  • Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity (Vision)
  • The Story of the Star Spangled Banner, (Cornerstones of Freedom) by
  • Natalie Miller
  • Kat Finds A Friend, a Mother Seton Story by Joan Stromberg
  • Captain Kate by Carolyn Reeder

  • Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (also New Hampshire)
  • And then What Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  • The Wild Horses of Sweetbriar by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
  • Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Puritan Adventure by Lois Lenski
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
  • Downright Dency by Caroline Dale Snedeker
  • The Charlotte Years (Little House Series) by Melissa Wiley

  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Curtis (recommended with caution)
  • The Legend of Mackinac Island by Kathy-jo Wargin
  • The Legend of the Sleeping Bear by Kathy-jo Wargin
  • The Legend of the Loon by Kathy-jo Wargin
  • M is for Mitten: A Michigan Alphabet by Annie Appleford
  • Paddle to the Sea by Holling Clancy Hollings
  • Thomas Edison: Young Inventor by Sue Guthridge (CFA)
  • The Waxtons go to Birmingham by Christopher Curtis (also Alabama – recommended with caution)
  • We Live in the North by Lois Lenski

  • Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace
  • Kirsten American Girl Stories
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

  • Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Katie John Series by Mary Calhoun
  • Little House on Rocky Ridge by Roger Lea MacBride
  • Little Farm in the Ozarks by Roger Lea MacBride
  • In the Land of the Big Red Apple by Roger Lea MacBride

  • San Domingo: the Medicine Hat Stallion by Marguerite Henry
  • To Yellowstone: A Journey Home by Robert McKinnon

  • A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather

  • Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry
  • Moon Shadow by Chris Platt
New Hampshire

  • The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet
  • George the Drummer Boy by Nathaniel Benchley
  • The Great Stone Face by Nathaniel Hawthorne
New Jersey

  • Cheaper by the Dozen by Gilbreth
  • The Edison Mystery by Dan Gutman
  • Time Enough for Drums by Ann Rinaldi
  • The Story of Baseball by Lawrence A. Ritter
  • Abigail Takes the Wheel by Avi
  • The First Air Voyage in the United States: the story of Jean Pierre Blauchard by Alexandra Wallner
  • New Jersey Timeline: a chronology by Marsh
  • Priest on Horseback by Eva K Betz
  • Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the U.S. by Collen
  • The Village: Life in Colonial Times by Knight
New Mexico

  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (high school)
  • Josefina American Girl Stories
  • Tree in the Trail by Holling Clancy Holling
  • We Live in the Southwest by Lois Lenski
New York

  • Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt by Jean Fritz
  • The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • High-Rise Secret by Lois Lenski
  • Karen by Marie Killilea
  • The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • St. Isaac and the Indians
  • The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
New York City

  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  • The Copper Lady by Alice Rosee and Kent Ross
  • Lou Gehrig: One of Baseball’s Greatest by Guernsey Van Riper
  • The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegard H. Swift and
  • Lynd Ward (picture book)
  • Samantha American Girl Stories
  • Shadow of the Bear and Black as Night by Regina Doman
  • The Story of the Statue of Liberty (Cornerstones of Freedom Series)
  • They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth
  • Thomas Finds a Treasure by Joan Stromberg
  • Lily and Miss Liberty
  • The Orphans Find a Home: A St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Story by Joan Stromberg
  • A Cricket in Times’ Square
North Carolina

  • Blue Ridge Billy by Lois Lenski
  • Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty
  • Twisted Games: A Pameroy Mystery in North Carolina by Brenda Felber
North Dakota

  • Wild Life by Cynthia de Felice
  • Fly Away by Patricia McLachlan
  • King of the Mound: My Summer With Satchel Page by Wes Tooke

  • Homer Price and Centerberg Tales by Robert McCloskey
  • Kit American Girl Stories
  • Lentil by Robert McCloskey (picture book)

  • Boom Town Boy by Lois Lenski
  • Where the Red Fern Growns by Wilson Rawls

  • Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • To Be a Logger by Lois Lenski
  • The Year of the Black Pony by Walter Morey

  • Addy American Girl Stories
  • The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin by James Cross Giblin
  • The Battle of Gettysburg by Bruce Catton
  • Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia (Landmark).
  • Brady by Jean Fritz
  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
  • Gettysburg by MacKinlay Kantor
  • The Iron Spy by Joan Stromberg
  • Katie: The Young Life of St. Katherine Drexel by Claire Mohun Jordan
  • Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (Gettysburg – older teen or adult)
  • The Many Lives of Benjamin Franklin by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson
  • A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin by David A. Adler
  • The Riddle of Penncroft Farm by Dorothea Jensen
  • Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz
  • Shoo-fly Girl by Lois Lenski
  • Silver for General Washington by Enid Lamonte Meadowcroft
  • The Skippack School by Marguerite de Angeli
  • The Story of the Declaration of Independence by N. Richards
  • The Story of William Penn by Aliki
  • Thee Hannah! by Marguerite de Angeli
  • Thunder at Gettysburg by Patricia Gauch
  • What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? by Jean Fritz
  • The Winter at Valley Forge by VanWyck Mason
Rhode Island

  • The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle
  • The True Confession of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
South Carolina

  • The Swamp Fox of the Revolution by Stewart H. Holbrook (Landmark)
  • The Girl From Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson
South Dakota

  • Prairie School by Lois Lenski
  • Little Sioux Girl by Lois Lenski
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Old Sam: Dakota Trotter by Don Alonzo Taylor
  • These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

  • Daniel’s Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla (easy reader)
  • The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills
  • White Bird by Clyde Robert Bulla

  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
  • Savage Sam by Fred Gipson
  • Texas Tomboy by Lois Lenski
  • Wilderness Pioneer by Carol Hoff
  • The Wind Blows Free by Loula Grace Erdman

  • The Great Brain by John Fitzgerald
  • The Wild World of Buck Bray by Judy Young

  • Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry
  • The Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
  • Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

  • Felicity American Girl Stories
  • George Washington by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
  • The Story of George Washington
  • Misty by Marguerite Henry
  • Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
  • Willy Finds a Victory by Joan Stromberg

  • Young Mac of Fort Vancouver by Mary Jane Carr
  • Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm
  • I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980 by Lauren Tarshis
Washington D.C.

  • The Mitchell’s: Five for Victory by Hilda Van Stockum
West Virginia

  • The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills (picture book)
  • Coal Camp Girl by Lois Lenski
  • When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant (picture book)

  • First Farm in the Valley: Anna’s Story by Anne Pellowski and others in the Polish American Girls Series
  • Caddie Woodlawn and Magical Melons by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Rascal by Sterling North
  • Father Marquette and the Great Rivers by August Derleth (also Illinois, Michigan et al.)

  • My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
  • Charlie’s Raven by Jean Craighead George
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