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15 Great Summer Reading Books For Kids

Posted May 10

As summer approaches, one thing on parents’ minds is the dreaded “summer slide”-as the decline of students’ skills over summer break has come to be known.

As real as the summer learning loss can be, there are kids who avoid this seasonal slide and even improve their skills during the school break-particularly when it comes to reading and math. The difference can be as minor as frequent trips to the library. According to a recent study, students who participate in library-sponsored summer reading programs scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the new school year and returned to school ready to learn.

Loading your child up with engaging reads is an effective way to keep those skills strong and avoid boredom on those hot, unscheduled days at home. This captivating collection of titles for elementary-aged kids is the perfect place to start.

1. “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo

Ten-year-old Opal, whose mother left when she was little, isn't happy that her preacher father moved them to a small Florida town. When she finds a mangy mutt in a local supermarket (and names him Winn-Dixie, after the store), things finally start to look up for Opal in this moving, heartwarming book.

Best for: ages 9-12

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2. “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton

As they stitch a quilt together, Kay's aunt tells her the story of 14-year-old Arrietty Clock who lived with her parents under the floorboards of a house. The Clocks were "borrowers," six-inch tall people who survive by borrowing objects from the big people they call "human beans." Like Kay, children everywhere can’t help but get caught up in Arrietty's adventures.

Best for: ages 7-10

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3. “Charlotte's Web” by E.B. White

You are probably familiar with this charming tale of a young girl named Fern, the runt piglet she saves and names Wilbur and an incredible spider named Charlotte. Although funny and delightful, this summer read does have its sadder moments, so consider your child's sensitivity level when offering this book.

Best for: ages 8-12

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4. “The Door by the Staircase” by Katherine Marsh

Ever since her mother and brother died in a fire, 12-year-old Mary has lived a lonely and painful life in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies. One day after her plan to escape is thwarted, she is adopted by the mysterious Madame Z. Everything seems perfect until Mary and her new friend Jacob discover Madame Z may not be who she seems.

Best for: ages 8-12

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5. “A Bad Case of the Stripes” by David Shannon

Even though she loves lima beans, Camilla Cream will not eat them because her friends say they are not cool. One day, she wakes up covered in colorful stripes. As her classmates tease Camilla and doctors try to cure her, she breaks out in stars, polka dots and eventually blends right in with the walls until a wise old woman tells her the simple cure. This colorful book will amuse young children all summer.

Best for: ages 4-8

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6. “Ivy & Bean” by Annie Barrows

When Ivy moves in across the street, Bean is sure they won't be friends. They are just too different. However, when Ivy helps Bean get away from her sister, who is trying to get Bean in trouble, a friendship blossoms between the unlikely pair. Kids who enjoy this book can read the entire series over the summer.

Best for: 7-9 years

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7. “Matilda” by Roald Dahl

Gifted and sweet, Matilda goes largely unnoticed by her less-than-loving parents. Things only get worse when she goes to school. Fortunately, her aptly-named teacher, Miss Honey, helps Matilda discover how special she is and encourages her to create the life she dreams about.

Best for: ages 8-12

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8. “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes

Before she started going to school, Chrysanthemum loved her name. Now, she wants to change it because her classmates make fun of it. Even her parents cannot console the little mouse. Everything changes when the kids' favorite teacher says she has the perfect name picked out for her new baby. Even preschoolers will be captivated by this charming read.

Best for: ages 4-8

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9. “Pippi Longstocking” by Astrid Lindgren

Tommy and Annika Settergren lead a happy but uneventful life until 9-year-old Pippi moves in next door. Claiming that her mother is dead and her father lost at sea, the young girl moves into the home with only a monkey and a horse. The three children become fast friends and life is never boring again.

Best for: ages 8-12

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10. “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume

Every kid with a younger sibling will root for and commiserate with nine-year-old Peter in this classic summer read. His younger brother "Fudge" is always causing trouble and usually getting away with it. And then there's the matter of Sheila Tubman, Peter's bossy classmate and neighbor who always seems to show up at the worst times. It's tough being a fourth grader.

Best for: ages 8-12

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11. “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein

How cool would it be to spend the night in an amazing library designed by a famous, eccentric game inventor? Kyle is about to find out, because he is one of 12 kids chosen to do just that. The twist is that they have to solve puzzles to escape the library without using the main doors. Kids who enjoyed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” will love reading this book over summer break.

Best for: ages 8-12

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12. “The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy” by Jeanne Birdsall

This won't be an ordinary summer vacation for the four Penderwick sisters. Their widower father has rented a cottage on an estate called Arundel Hall. However, haughty Mrs. Tifton is displeased with her son's friendship with the "common" family and seeks to end it in the first book of the Penderwicks series.

Best for: ages 8-12

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13. “Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras)” by Asia Citro

Zoey and her cat Sassafras love to solve problems. When a sick baby dragon shows up in the backyard, they are not sure what to do. The pair is determined to save little Marshmallow-and the other magical creatures who show up needing help-using scientific theories and experiments. This book boosts young children's STEM knowledge as well as their reading skills.

Best for: ages 5-9

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14. “Amelia Bedelia Means Business” by Herman Parish

When the very literal Amelia's parents say a new bike will cost her an arm and a leg, she is mystified. She decides to raise money instead. Her ventures include a lemonade sit (she doesn't want everyone to stand) and grooming a dog to be show-ready (does a suit and tie seem appropriate?). Giggles will abound when kids take in this book or you read it together.

Best for: ages 6-10

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15. “Princess Cora and the Crocodile” by Laura Amy Schlitz

Cora wants a day off from all of her boring princess duties, so she writes a letter to her fairy godmother (as any princess would). The fairy sends an unexpected gift: an enormous crocodile. Chasing after her new pet and attempting to make him mind, Cora spends a crazy day getting dirty, breaking rules and finding her own voice. An ideal summer chapter book for early readers, pre-readers will delight in the abundant illustrations as well.

Best for: ages 4-8

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Between mornings at day camp, afternoons at the neighborhood pool and entire days spent playing video games, make sure your children’s summer includes plentiful trips to the library and copious kids’ books such as these. Not only will their boredom vanish, but they could head back to school in the fall even smarter than when they left.

This story originally appeared on Simplemost. Checkout Simplemost for other great tips and ideas to make the most out of life.


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