It is summer. The sun is hot, the air is warm and the shade is where you'll find my children... reading! After a long and difficult year of learning and focusing and testing and math, my kids just want to kick back with a good book and a tall glass of something sweet. And who can blame them? Here are some great ideas for lighter summer reading based on age group. But keep scrolling down, and there are some food-for-thought selections for parents at the end!
PICTURE BOOKS, READ ALOUD & EMERGENT READERS
These books are intended for those little ones who are just discovering the joy of paging through a book, those who love being read to and those who are tentatively putting letters and sounds together.
What do people do all day?
by Richard Scarry
Remember when you used to spend hours being part of the Richard Scary world? Remember when the characters were your friends and their antics made you laugh? Your children will be just as delighted with this beautifully illustrated book that describes how Busytown runs smoothly. Everyone in Busytown has a job. The construction workers, farmers, doctors, fire fighters… they all contribute to make the town work. The amount of detail in this picture book will keep little ones and emergent readers occupied for at least a little while!
Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic
by Emily Jenkis
This title is a mouthful, but so are the adventures in this first book of the Toys Go Out Trilogy.
Three best friends live life together, a stingray, a buffalo and someone called… plastic! Are you interested yet? In this short chapter book the friends look things up in the dictionary, explore the basement, and argue about the meaning of life. Together they face dogs, school, television commercials, the vastness of the sea, and the terrifying bigness of the washing machine. This book obviously address the great existential questions that toys face and will keep young readers thinking through the long days of summer. The author uses a poetic-like structure and her words create beautiful images for the mind. And, if all these hard questions are answered before the last day of summer, look into Toys Come Home and Toys Dance Party for some lighter reading (wink).
by Kate DiCamillo
This set of six books follows the adventures of the porcine wonder, Mercy Watson, who loves above all toast with a great deal of butter on it. Fun for children and adults alike, Mercy Watson is a pet pig, totally spoiled by her human “parents”. She has an uncanny ability to get herself in the most absurdly funny situations. The series is full of wonky characters and colorful illustrations and a truly gifted pig that shifts from being a crime fighter, to a rescuer, to a princess! She mostly thinks like a pig and is completely motivated by hot buttered toast. Sounds oddly familiar. I'm in!
These reading suggestions are intended for those children who can read independently, somewhere around the upper-elementary and middle school ages.
by Elizabeth Enrich
Gone-Away Lake is a book for explorers at heart. It will intrigue children who like to discover and explore. It's the story of a summer like no other where two cousins, Portia and Julian, discover an enormous boulder with a mysterious message, a swamp choked with reeds and quicksand, and on the far side of the swamp... a ghost town inhabited only by an elderly brother and sister - the only two people left who can tell the story of what happened there. The story is set against the backdrop of the 50's where children spent their summers away from TV's and electronics. It's a wholesome alternative to today's dystopia-filled children's literature. A children’s classic for all ages, charming and sweet.
Five Children and It
by Edith Nesbit
Be transported away to an age long ago where five children discover, by accident, a sand fairy with the ability to grant wishes. They learn very quickly that wishes, wise or foolish, can go awry very quickly. The evergreen Five Children and It was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1902 as a series of stories. Later it became the first book in a trilogy followed by The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet. It follows the adventures and misadventures of five siblings who are left to take care of an aging grandmother when their parents are called back to work and other family obligations. The minimally supervised children learn the consequences of getting what you wish for courtesy of a sand fairy!
The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster
Milo, a bored young boy, magically receives a tollbooth. Having nothing else to do, he drives through it and is transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom, a kingdom that was once prosperous but now in need of assistance. The writing is full of puns and delicious word plays. The Phantom Tollbooth is a book for children who love words. Words that we thought we knew are remade and applied in delightfully fresh ways. This book invites children and adults to look at language in a new way. The subtle theme of the story is a love for learning.
The Landmark Book Series
The Landmark Book Series is an out-of-print book series published between 1950-70. It was so successful it lured an entire generation of young readers. It encompasses more than 100 volumes dedicated to historical figures and events. The books are written not by historians, but by famous wordsmiths of their day, such as novelists and journalists. The book about Hitler, for instance, was written by a journalist who was present at some of his first rallies.
It might take a little searching through used books websites, Amazon's Kindle books or eBay, but these books are a delight, and a wonderful companion on a historical site during a family vacation. With over 100 volumes you won't run out of reading material this summer.
Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Collection
by Andrew Clements
Andrew Clements is an author who draws on his own experience as a teacher to write the series Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School. The first book in the collection, We The Children, is a fast-paced action-packed adventure supported with illustrations. Benjamin Pratt and his friends, Jill and Robert, must figure out who is trying to destroy his school and why. The characters face personal challenges that lead to character growth. The collection continues with another 5 books: Fear Itself, The White of Their Eyes, In Harms' Way and We Hold These Truths. This collection has plenty of excitement to last you the whole summer.
Avid readers are those who love to read novellas, novels and classics.
A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
What more is there to say? Was this published in today's newspaper or in a book written over 150 years ago? The story is told through the events leading up the French Revolution as experienced through the eyes of French Doctor Manette, who is released from an 18-year imprisonment in the Bastille and sent to live with his estranged daughter in London.
by Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is a personal favorite. The tale follows the life of Jane Eyre, an orphan who grows into maturity and finds herself the governess of a sweet French girl, Adele, the ward of the brooding Mr Rochester from Thornfield. Mystery surrounds the master and the mansion at Thornfield. Through twists and turns Jane finds herself the mistress of a different kind of Thornfield. Jane is a strong female protagonist, independent and sure. Although she is considered plain by her female counterparts we soon learn that true beauty is seen through the heart. In the age of makeovers and false eye-lashes this is a refreshingly novel perspective.
The Old Man and The Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea is a simple yet profound story about a Cuban fisherman that does what he is supposed to do. He fishes. Santiago loves the ocean and his craft and he respects the fish that bite his hook. In his old age he faces an epic battle: he risks greatly and he fails. He fights his failure to the end and it wins. But he perseveres in the most brutal way a fisherman alone in a fishing boat can persevere. He does a hard thing: he endures beyond the point where others would have given up. This is the beauty of the story.
The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas
The story follows the life of Edmond Dantes, a young man who has a lot going for him. He is facing a bright future when he is betrayed and imprisoned for fourteen years. During this time he receives an education and finds a true friend. It would seem that sometimes when you are in the dark and think you are buried, you might just be planted instead. He escapes prison and his newfound knowledge leads him to become a rich man. But, Dantes must decide how to reclaim his life and how to face his betrayers. Make sure to get the unabrdiged version of this book because you will not want the story to end!
FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT SUGGESTIONS FOR PARENTS
These suggestions are far from fluff. They are thought provoking and meant to be digested slowly over the course of a summer.
Love Thy Body
by Nancy R Pearce
What does it mean to be human? The answer to this question has powerful consequences. In Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey explains the worldview from which cultural beliefs on abortion, euthanasia, the hook-up culture, homosexuality, transgenderism, and the meltdown of the natural family via social contract theory, gain their support. Her book is well-researched, drawing from history, theology, philosophy, and personal testimonies. By showing how Christianity actually sustains the dignity of the person in accordance with science and biology, she also dismantles the cultural slant that Christianity is harsh or hateful. Love Thy Body is an essential tool for understanding and engaging with our culture’s views on humanity and morality.
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
by Richard Louv
Statistics show that children today are more apt to be plugged-in and therefore out of touch with the natural world. Louv shows how this statistic is causing some disturbing childhood trends: ADHD, obesity, depression. Yet solutions are found right in one’s backyard--direct interaction with nature is essential to a child's healthy development. As you read Last child in the Woods, be convicted, the implications are as much for adults as for children.
This phenomenon has been described in newspapers and TV broadcasts. It is a disease of our time. A study sponsored by VELUX has lead to the production of this video:
Now that you are armed with an arsenal of books to read you only have to decide where and how. Spread out a blanket on the grass, grab the kids and start reading; or allow each kid to create and decorate a reading nook in a secluded place so that they can read in peace; or, if you are traveling, download an audio book and drink in the soothing sounds of a good book. No matter what you choose to do, take a deep breath and enjoy it.