Summer is here and that means I can catch up with my kid lit book pile. To start this summer, I picked up a few books that were rereads for me. Rereading is a great activity for readers because it builds fluency and gives the reader a chance to glean more (and different ideas) from a story, and it builds stronger connections. It also has the benefit of helping you get through any book mourning you may experience when you don’t want a special book to end.
Two books that started my summer reading binge are books that have Native American settings, The Birchbark House and Morning Girl. I had not read either book in several years, but one of the reasons I wanted to reread them is because they have characters who make everything they need to live from scratch. I love the scenes in the story where the author describes the procedures for building a house or hunting for food or making clothing. If you like Little House on the Prairie because of the parts where Laura and her family build a cabin or gather maple syrup, you will enjoy these stories too. I should probably focus more on the results of white settlers claiming American Indian land and the destructive impact it had on these groups. The books include recognition of that topic too. I happen to like the parts that show self-reliance the best since the other parts are so sad.
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Morning Girl by Michael Dorris
Guests by Michael Dorris
The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George
Far North by Will Hobbs
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Cornelia Cornelissen
When the Legend Dies by Hal Borland (7th grade+)
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (7th grade+)
A Man Called Horse by Dorothy M. Johnson (7th grade+)
The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble
Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble
The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor
There were many more recommendations on THIS AICL WEBSITE dedicated to American Indians in children’s literature.
For more summer reading ideas, my teacher blogger friend, Amy, has posted a new Hidden Gem book that you might not find on your own. CLICK HERE to read her latest recommendation.
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.
I have been reading at a pretty good clip since school ended. I just finished a book called Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. At first, I thought it was going to be another book with Quirky Sidekicks that seems to be the current trend in juvenile literature. While there are definitely oddball characters, the book is more of an art mystery. It is a combination of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The DaVinci Code. Some of the solutions in the story are a little too convenient, but overall, I loved the information about the Renaissance painter, Raphael, World War II, and the Monuments Men. There are a handful of other books that center around family heirloom secrets in order to reach the resolution. I love the scavenger hunt aspect to these books and recommend them for students because they require a ton of critical reading skills to follow the plot.
Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan ( and The 39 Clues series)
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
The Shadows by Jacqueline West (The Books of Elsewhere series)
We the Children by Andrew Clements (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series)
The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (The Red Blazer Girls series)
Masterpiece by Elise Broach
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Second Mrs. Giacondo by E.L. Konigsburg
Leonardo’s Shadow by Christopher Grey
The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
Cecily’s Portrait by Adele Geras (Historical House series)
I received an e-mail last week from a student I taught this past year. She needed help selecting summer reading books from the required summer reading list. The students at my school receive really good summer reading lists, but the lists are big. It can be difficult to select a book when a child has too many choices. How do you narrow down and make good selections when you have many titles from which to choose?
Look for authors on the list that you recognize and see if there are new or different book titles by that same author.
Locate a title on the list that you have already read and really liked. Search that book title on a website like Amazon or Goodreads. These sites offer suggestions or “read-alike” book titles. Check the suggestions against your required list to see if there are any matches.
Often the lists are organized by style or genre. Look for books within the same genre. If your child loves survival books or mysteries or humorous realistic fiction select other books in that same category from the summer reading list.
Bring the reading list to your library or bookstore and ask people there for ideas. E-mail the teacher like my student did and ask if he/she has favorite book recommendations. Ask classmates what they are reading from the list.
Look up titles and check the page count. Start with a shorter book that can be completed quickly. I don’t recommend choosing a book simply because it is the shortest, but if the summer reading list is a little daunting, start with a quick read to get in the groove.
Look at the reading range of the book. Narrow down choices by choosing books at the lower end of a child’s reading range. If you are unsure of your child’s reading range, make a guess based on his or her upcoming grade level. If your child is about to be a 4th grader and was an average reader the previous year, look for books that are intended for 3rd graders or roughly 8 to 10 years old. There are websites that help with book reading ranges if it is not listed on the back cover of the book. Scholastic Book Wizard is easy to use.
Once your child has selected a book, stay involved. Read the first few chapters together. Ask questions about what is happening in the story. Many kids need some monitoring when reading independently to make sure they are grasping key events in the story.
Don’t have a list from your school? You can use some suggestions from the books TheRoomMom’s family is reading this summer.
Mr Star Wars’ Summer Reading Choices (age 12/13)
Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Bad Books by Pseudonymous Bosch
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
TheRoomMom blog is part parenting tips and part teacher tips (with some snacky food and book ideas thrown in). Today, the teacher part of my blog is featured on the Teaching Blog Addict.
“Contacting Book Authors” is the featured activity in their weekly teacher freebie list. The best part is, I did not even know I had been selected!
If you need an activity to build a little excitement for any summer reading assignments you may have, try contacting the book author. We had great success last year. Here are a few of the authors who replied:
Brian Selznick (Wonderstruck and Invention of Hugo Cabret)
Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda series)
Leslie Connor (Crunch)
Julie Edwards (Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles— letter was from her “fan mail coordinator”)
J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter— form letter)
Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon series)
Annie Barrows (The Magic Half)
Sheila Turnage (Three Times Lucky)
Kate Klise (Dying to Meet You series)
Patrick Carmen (Floors— took 9 months to receive a reply!)
Erica Orloff (Magickeepers series)
Obert Skye (Wonkenstein and Potterwookie)
Lisa Schroeder (It’s Raining Cupcakes)
Jacqueline Kelly (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate)