Books with a Summer Setting

justin case shells smells

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.

summer setting pin

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.

summer of my german soldier

Topic, Main Idea, and Details

ice cream sundae

The three dreaded pieces of a reading assignment to any student. Most students take a stab at a word in the first sentence to find topic and main idea and then pick something from the middle for a detail. There’s a 50/50 chance they will get partial points using that strategy. Well, hold on to your hats; I have a better way.

I attended another professional development class from my favorite source for good reading strategies– KUCRL. This time, I got some tips for helping students identify topic, main, idea, and detail.

  1. To find the topic of a paragraph or article, use the sentence prompt, “This paragraph/article is about _____.” The one or two words that complete the sentence is the topic. If a student is still lost, the topic will often appear in the title and/or first or last sentence of the paragraph, so look there while using the prompt.
  2. To find a main idea within a paragraph, locate the topic first. Then ask yourself, “What does this paragraph tell me about the topic?” Insert your topic at the end of the question. The answer to your question is the main idea.
  3. To find important details, use the main idea. Ask yourself, “What is specific information about the main idea?” Insert your main idea at the end of the question. The ideas that answer the question are the key details.

Read the paragraph and give it a try.

perfect ice cream sundae paragraphTopic: This paragraph is about ice cream sundaes.

Main Idea: What does this paragraph tell me about ice cream sundaes? This paragraph talks about sundae ingredients. The main idea is ice cream sundae ingredients.

Details: What is specific information about the ingredients? Key details are ice cream flavors, sauces, and different kinds of toppings.

These prompts help with standardized test preparation for reading comprehension. They also work well when looking for the important “stuff” while reading textbooks. Finally, this is a great way to pick out the essential information in any non-fiction reading assignment. It provides a structured way for students to weed out non-important details and zero in on the meat of the text in order to take notes for research projects or preparing for class discussion and tests.

If you are looking for teaching materials that help with these skills, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase activities that reinforce reading skills like topic, main idea, details, and paraphrasing.