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Books to Teach European History

European history incorporates so much knowledge for your upper elementary and middle school social studies students! Studying geography, landmarks, people, and events from across the continent is so important. Your social studies students will love extending their learning with these books to teach European history.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain    by Peter Sis

First, share some background about the Iron Curtain and World War II history. Nothing gets my students more excited about European history than illustrated books! This Caldecott Honor Winner is a simple children’s book that describes the reality of living under oppressive governments. Peter Sis details the truth of Czechoslovakia during World War II, creating colorful and lively scenery for this otherwise bleak story that not only draws your upper elementary and middle school readers in but also speaks to the inherent goodness of children.

The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History: The Story of the Monuments Men    by Robert M. Edsel

In another World War II history book, Edsel expertly describes the journey of the brave American and British volunteers that raced to save priceless works of arts stolen by the Nazis. This book is perfect for your upper elementary and middle school students, but you'll love it too!

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction    by David Macaulay

Next, enjoy another Caldecott Honor Book by David Macaulay. This beautifully illustrated story is about the construction of this magnificent French Gothic cathedral and the community that grew from it. The New York Times voted Cathedral: The Story of its Construction one of the Best Illustrations of the Year. This is a fantastic book to integrate architecture and art into your social studies European History curriculum.

Who Was? Where Was? What is? (Book Series)     by Penguin Random House

For younger readers also interested in the tales of ole, this popular book series offers exciting but easy-to-read stories of important figures, events, or places from history. In addition, the series includes stories of the Holocaust, the Berlin wall, and more. The writing style and artistic renditions of historical moments are simple for any elementary and middle school social studies student to understand.


European Explorers for Kids     by Catherine Fet

Next, share the stories of European Explorers through narratives written just for kids! Beginning with the age of the Vikings, the stories of explorers continue into the 20th century. Enjoy stories from the following explorers:
      • Erik the Red
      • Leif Eriksson
      • Marco Polo
      • Prince Henry the Navigator
      • Diego Cam
      • Bartolomeu Dias
      • Christopher Columbus
      • Amerigo Vespucci
      • Vasco da Gama
      • Ferdinand Magellan
      • Vitus Bering
      • James Cook
      • David Livingstone
      • Roald Amundsen

Overall, all of the stories are written using primary source materials such as letter, journals, and books written by the subjects studied. Finally, no matter what time period or country you are studying, European history is an integral part of World History as well as our own American History! These books will help your students explore geography, historical events, and the people who shaped European History.

Extension Activities for European History

One way to help your upper elementary and middle school students explore Europe's past and present is with a digital escape room!

What is an escape room?

An escape room is a series of puzzles that your students will solve to unlock facts about a specific topic. In this Europe digital escape room, your students will students decode facts about Europe in order to retrieve their family's passports from the "safe" for their big Europe trip! Puzzles focus on Europe's:

      • size
      • number of countries
      • location
      • landforms
      • landmarks
      • languages
      • religion
      • food


Of course, one of the coolest things about digital escape rooms is that they help your students practice critical thinking and problem solving skills. Some of the clues and puzzles are easy while some are more difficult, so you can differentiate and scaffold for all of your students. In addition, escape rooms are also perfect for collaboration! Your students go on a journey through two 360° VIEW rooms and explore four fun-filled activities about Ancient European history. Each activity also has a reading and quiz along with the puzzle.

      • Cryptogram
      • Maze
      • Cipher
      • Jigsaw


Unlock fun with these puzzles that will have your students asking, "When is the next escape room?" Note: Check out all the escape rooms to share with your thinkers! From biographies (i.e. Susan B. Anthony and Albert Einstein) to Ancient Rome, there's an escape room for virtually every unit of study in World and American history! Use fun, engaging books to teach European history beyond the textbook. Your students will love the picturesque stories you share from these incredible books! Extend their learning with the Europe digital escape room, perfect for both in-person and distance learners! Overall, your students will love learning about European history through books and extension activities to get them excited about learning and the world!
*This post contains affiliate links.  By making a purchase using the links provided, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.  This commission does not affect the price of your items 🙂

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