I keep seeing articles about how to encourage children to read throughout the summer. All of the articles make the same basic suggestions. Set a daily reading time. Establish a specific amount of time to read each day. Get involved in a reading incentive program at a local library or bookstore, and provide good book choices.
Ultimately, if your child/student likes to read, he or she will continue to read in the summer as long as there are books available. If you do not have a child who is an avid reader then you (or another adult) have to support the reading habits if you want any reading to happen. You will need to provide reading material or opportunities to choose reading material; model reading (that means read yourself); read together, and have book discussions. Even though we often think of reading as an independent activity for older kids, a child will develop better reading habits if reading is treated like a group activity, and all participate.
I wish there was a pill to magically make a child a reader but there is not. If you need a little kick-start finding a book to help your child get over the reading-when-not-at-school hump, try a book that takes place during the summer when the characters in the story are also not attending school.
Upper Elementary (~3rd grade to 6th grade)
- The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
- Under the Egg by Laura Max Fitzgerald
- My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian
- Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
- Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty
- Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
- The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders
- Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
- Justin Case: Shells, Smells, and Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom by Rachel Vail
- The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
- Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin
- The Bread Winner by Arvella Whitmore
- The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
- Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
- Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey
Middle School (7th grade+)
- Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
- The Summer of the Swans Betsy Byars
For younger readers, try The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner specifically #2 in the series. I could not remember for sure, but I think some of the Ivy and Bean books by Barrow take place during the summer as well as some of the Judy Moody by McDonald. Now that Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss are beyond the early chapter books (sniff), my radar is not as good for these younger titles.
During the month of February, my students and I work on a poetry unit. A key piece to the POETRY UNIT is the novel, Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech. I love this book. I cry in front of my students when I read this book. I want to be the character, Miss Stretchberry, in this book. Miss Stretchberry is that once-in-a-lifetime teacher who changes a child’s entire school career. She sees all of the hidden strengths in Jack, the narrator in the story, and spends time nurturing those qualities. She also sniffs out Jack’s worries or troubles and gently solves problems. In return, Jack rises to the occasion and is motivated to stretch his capabilities while he has Miss Stretchberry as a teacher.
Characters like Miss Stretchberry are some of my favorite, so I started building a list of books with inspirational teacher characters. I wish I had more book titles, but here is my first draft. I probably could expand the list into movie titles like Dead Poets Society or Stand and Deliver because movies with inspirational teachers get me too.
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
- Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
- The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
- Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler (pay attention to the music teacher)
- Homesick by Kate Klise
- Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
- No Talking by Andrew Clements
- The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, 7th grade+ (pay attention to the math teacher)
- The Secret School by Avi
- The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
- Wonder by R. J. Palacio
- Word after Word after Word by Patricia MacLachlan
- The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
For adults (and particularly teacher adults), try the book Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell.
Thank you to all who entered to win the Amazon gift card and participated in the recent blog hop. Congratulations to Callie W. who is my big winner! (Please look for an e-mail from me with details about your prize.)
In case Callie (or other readers) need help shopping for books, below is my favorite juvenile literature from 2014. These books were not necessarily published in 2014. They are just the books I enjoyed reading the most this past year.
- Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (5th grade +)
- The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern (4th+)
- Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes by Charise Mericle Harper (2nd+)
- Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (3rd+)
- Magic in the Mix by Annie Barrows (4th+)
- The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (5th+)
- Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (8th/9th+)
- 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass (4th+)
- Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (7th+)
- A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean (5th+)
- Holes by Louis Sachar (4th+)
- The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (7th+)
I read Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool this weekend. It won the Newbery a few years ago, and the title keeps appearing on book suggestion lists I receive, so I had it in my pile of to-reads. There are multiple characters and flashbacks, so you have to stay on your reading toes (and probably be at least a 6th or 7th grader). It has a style and setting that remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters also came to mind while I read.
The main character, Abilene Tucker, is sent to live with a family friend in a small town during the Depression. The town is chock full of quirky characters who are more interesting to me than Abilene. The minor characters are the reason I like the book. It took several chapters before the story grabbed me, but I loved the twist at the end during the courthouse scene– it was worth the wait.
Moon Over Manifest kick-started a new list of books that are set in small towns with memorable side characters. Do you ever read books and get caught up with the stories of the extra characters more than the protagonist? What other books have great quirky characters?
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
- A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
- A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
- Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
- Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
- Pie by Sarah Weeks
- Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
- Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
- The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
- Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
It is time for our annual summer road trip, and we loaded up on audio books from the public library earlier this week. I then had to make a trip back to the library because Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss listened to the first batch of books on CD in the TV room before we even packed the car.
Audio books are a great addition to long road trips. They keep voice levels low, so everyone can hear the narrator, and it provides a discussion topic for the whole group since everybody listens to the same story (we play our books on CD aloud– no earphones, although, that is an option). All ages can enjoy a story no matter the actual reading level of the book.
We have been listening to audio books for about 6 years. I cannot gush enough about the benefits of audio books. The narrator reads the book with the correct expression and syntax modeling good oral reading skills for a child. If a child follows along in the printed book at the same time he is listening, sight words, vocabulary, writing mechanics, and varied sentence construction are reinforced. When a group listens to an audio book, it tends to prompt more discussion. This will give a child extra practice re-telling a story, identifying conflicts in the story, and making predictions about future events– all of the skills a (good) active reader utilizes.
I posted an audio book recommendation list awhile back. Many of the books I had on my original list are still here. The Magic Treehouse series is still our favorite. Mary Pope Osborne narrates, and her voice works well. The stories are also a good length for our car attention span. Each story is about an hour and a half.
- Magic Treehouse (any in the series) read by the author, Mary Pope Osborne
- The Boxcar Children read by Phyllis Newman
- Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House book) read by Cherry Jones
- Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing read by the author, Judy Blume
- The BFG read by Natasha Richardson
- James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons
- The Bunnicula Collection read by Victor Garber
- No Talking read by Keith Nobbs
- Benjamin Pratt & The Keepers of the School: Fear Itself read by Keith Nobbs
- The Wizard of Oz read by Maureen Lipman
- The Year of Billy Miller read by Dan Bittner
- Heavy Hitters (or any in the Game Changers series) read by Fred Berman
- Ribsy (or any Henry Huggins book) read by Neil Patrick Harris
- Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White
- The 1oo-Year Old Secret (or any in the Sherlock Files series) read by David Pittu
- A Series of Unfortunate Events read by the author, Lemony Snicket. (This was probably a bad choice on my part. Not only was the author’s voice too nasal-y, the book is much darker read aloud, and the content was too old for my children’s ages.)
In my house, we all agree that the narrator is the key to a good audio book. What books have you enjoyed on tape? Who was the narrator?