Tips and books to get kids reading this summer

Posted May 9

Summer break is almost here! Help your children avoid the "summer brain slump" by bringing in the books. Here are summer reading tips and a book list for youngsters of all ages. (Deseret Photo)

Jim Trelease, author of “The Read-Aloud Handbook” and a child literacy expert, wrote, “The old adage ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it,’ proves true for children who spend a summer without books and reading.”

Without summer reading children's learning and thinking skills stagnate or even decrease. A two-year study of 3,000 students in Atlanta, Georgia, showed that “everyone — top student and bottom student — learns more slowly in the summer, but some do worse than slow down; they actually go into reverse,” as Trelease noted.

Prevent the summer brain slump with these helpful tips. And see the list below of great books for children of all ages.

Summer reading tips

1. Set aside time each day for independent reading. A half-hour is ideal, but even 10 to 15 minutes make a big difference. If it's hard to do big chunks of time, break it down.

2. Read aloud to children, even older ones, often.

3. Listen to audiobooks on those summer road trips — listening counts too.

4. Visit your local library. Most have fun, interactive summer reading programs to help youngsters stay engaged.

5. Go to the bookstore or used bookstore to help your kids own books. Children’s books can be found at used bookstores for around or under a dollar. Libraries also have used-book sales.

6. Be an example! The research shows over and over that children are better readers when they have a good example in the home.

Summer reading book list

Picture books (ages 3-8)

1. “Are We There Yet?” by Dan Santat

Brand-new for summer from Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat comes the ultimate road trip read. This ride in the car goes from boring to incredible in crazy illustrations (some are even upside-down) and rollicking adventures back through time.

2. “Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story” by Mariam Gates and illustrated Sarah Jane Hinder

Help young ones greet the day with a little reading, a little movement and a little positive thought. This adorable book by child yoga expert Mariam Gates is fabulously interactive, sweetly written and beautifully illustrated.

Early chapter books (ages 8-12)

1. “Lulu’s Mysterious Mission” by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Beloved children’s author Judith Viorst offers loads of laughs and crazy adventures in the Lulu series. In this installment, Lulu’s parents go on vacation without her, leaving her with a formidable baby sitter. But Lulu has all kinds of crazy schemes to get them back.

2. “Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?” by Yona Zeldis McDonough and illustrated by Carrie Robbins

This fantastic series of nonfiction chapter books is perfect for the curious little mind. With many books to choose from in the "Who Was" series, children can learn all about favorite people, places and events. This fun biography of one of music’s greats is full of interesting facts and stories.

Middle-grade books (ages 12-15)

1. “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier

Life as a sixth-grader can be rough, especially when you fall, knock out your front teeth and have to endure braces, headgear, surgery and all the embarrassment that comes with them. New York Times best-selling author Raina Telgemeier offers an engaging story told in comic-book format.

2. “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster

First published in 1961, this adventure story is still a kid favorite. Milo thinks everything is a big bore. When a mysterious car and tollbooth appear in his room he sets off into a land of quirky characters, whimsical encounters, humorous dialogue and subtle life lessons. An unforgettable childhood read.

Teen books (ages 15-18)

1. “An Uncertain Choice” by Jody Hedlund

“An Uncertain Choice” is the story of Lady Rosemarie, whose parents made a promise at her birth that on her 18th birthday she’d become a nun. A month before her birthday it’s discovered that in her parents’ will there is a way out. If she can marry before she’s 18 then she escapes the vow. But when three noble, handsome knights start competing for her affection, things get complicated.

Content note: Clean

2. “Code Talker” by Joseph Bruchac

World War II is in full swing. When the U.S. Marine Corps enlists the help of the Navajos, 16-year-old Ned Begay lies about his age and enlists. Soon he finds himself embedded in a secret mission as a code talker. Sending crucial messages in his native language, Ned faces brutal fighting in the Pacific and dangers he never imagined. A thoughtful, memorable historical fiction read.

Content note: Moderate war violence

How do you help your children read in the summer? Share your ideas on the comments page.

Teri Harman, author and book enthusiast, writes a column for ksl.com and contributes book-related segments to "Studio 5 with Brooke Walker." Her novels, "Blood Moon," "Black Moon," and "Storm Moon" are now available. Visit her at teriharman.com.


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