With school out for the summer, it's a time for lazy days and even lazier brains. The minute my kids dumped the contents of their backpacks into the trash bin, I could feel the intelligence dripping out of them like juice down a popsicle stick.
The bad news? They crave screen time in copious quantities, the dumber the app or video, the better. The good news—they'll do whatever it takes to earn this screen time, even if it means cracking open a book. And I am all about the art of the deal. Especially if it means we can fill in a few lines on their summer reading packets. After all, reading is the perfect cure for the summer slide.
Below, I am thrilled to feature a guest post from one of my readers on books to keep your kids' brains from melting into mush by Labor Day. Thanks, Cassie, for giving my brain a break!
7 Great Summer Kids Reads
by Cassie Phillips
It can be hard to get your holiday-minded kids to hit the books, but with studies showing how much children can lose during a learning-free summer, it's important that they do.
Other than following a couple of good practices like having plenty of books around the house for them to pick up whenever they want, providing downtime away from the TV and other technology, or supplying them with on the go tablet reading to make travel easy, it's all down to getting them engaged in great titles. For a few to fit every reading level, read on!
1. Olivia & The Fairy Princesses - First-grade reading level
This full of sass little piggy is the perfect antidote to any boring summer slump reading—the Olivia books by Ian Falconer are riotously funny for both kids and parents and include excellent visuals that require a second (or even tenth) look. Inspired by Falconer's headstrong and energetic niece, Olivia & The Fairy Princesses tells the tale of one small piggie who finds herself discontented with everyone's obsession to be a fairy princess. Throw in some Martha Graham and Olivia's classic red footie pajamas and you've got a tale that leaves both your first grader and yourself on the floor laughing. And the best part? There's a whole series (11 books so far), so lovers of the character can continue the fun even when the last page is done.
For Olivia fans who want more, Falconer is also responsible for a great television series that gives the same great characters additional storylines. YouTube has full-length episodes ready to be loved. Not watching from the US or planning on an overseas summer vacation? International viewers can get around the geo-blocking with a Virtual Private Network.
2. Captain Underpants - Second-grade reading level
This comic book series by Dav Pilkey is another story that just keeps giving with multiple installments, so don’t be surprised when your kids want to keep going on adventures with George Beard and Harold Hutchins. Based on George and Harold's fourth-grade adventures into the world of make-believe action heroes turning real, these two best friends first create a comic book starring Captain Underpants, before their hypnotized principal Mr. Krupp transforms into the action hero himself. Your kids will love diving into the after-school adventures with George and Harold, and it will certainly lend plenty of laughs as they battle their arch-nemesis Melvin Sneedly, a tattletale in their grade—Wedgie Woman—Dr. Diaper and more.
3. Spiderwick Chronicles - Third-grade reading level
After the Grace Children move to Spiderwick Estate, their world is turned upside down with the discovery of the fairy world, and your kid’s imaginations will turn right along with them throughout the series. Starring twins Simon and Jarod, and their older sister Mallory, the SpiderwickChronicles begin with The Field Guide, where the siblings discover a secret library on the second floor of the mansion through a dumbwaiter, uncover a brownie named Thimbletack, and happen upon a detailed account of the spirit world in the attic titled Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, that open their eyes to a magical world inside our world. From goblin kidnappings to imprisonment by elves, the Grace kids grow up, battle evil, and build stronger bonds that will resonate with your children for years to come.
4. Harry Potter - Fourth-grade reading level
While your kids may be all too familiar with the movies, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is truly realized only by reading the books in their entirety. Beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and ending with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and set in Great Britain, the magical world of one lightning bolt boy who discovers he's a wizard has enthralled millions of children worldwide, and it's not hard to see why. With magical beasts, fantastical castles, and real friendship, Harry Potter is as much about the enchanted going-ons of this secret world as it is about learning to be brave, standing up for what's right and facing your greatest fears.
5. Number the Stars - Fifth-grade reading level
Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars is a riveting historical drama about the escape of one Jewish family from Copenhagen, Denmark during World War II, and while the subject matter may be sophisticated, the tale's account of ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her family is one that will inform and educate about a particularly dark part of our world's history. Focusing on the rescue of the Danish Jews in the early 1940s and their relocation to Sweden to avoid concentration camps, this tale of friendship and love in a time of war is one that needs to be told, and read, again and again.
6. Coraline - Sixth-grade reading level
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a dark fantasy that revolves around Coraline, an adventurous young girl who moves into a new building and is instantly intrigued with its tenants. While the elderly and retired showgirls Miss Spink and Miss Forcible live downstairs and the mouse-circus training Mr. Bobo lives upstairs, Coraline's adjacent apartment is vacant, and that's where she discovers a secret world. Entering into an alternate reality where all the people have buttons for eyes, Coraline meets ghosts and must rescue her parents before she becomes trapped in "The Other World" and must have buttons sewn onto her own eyes. Definitely for the more sophisticated reader who enjoys fantasy realms, any lover of this Gaiman tale has plenty of options for their next read as Gaiman's ability to spin a one of a kind tale has resulted in Stardust, American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
7. The Hobbit - Best bedtime story
J.R.R. Tolkien's books have clearly stood the test of time, and that’s why it’s an incredible addition to your bedtime reading regime. Perfect for every age, from kindergarten to octogenarian, The Hobbit is a timeless tale of bravery, friendship and magic is sure to get your kids more interested in great storytelling than ever before. And then when you’ve finished the tale you can reward your kids with Peter Jackson’s film trilogy before you crack open Tolkien's next literary giant: The Lord of the Rings.
While part of the summer reading battle is about finding a book that is challenging but not so much that it's frustrating, these books are perfect for kids when applied to their proper reading level. Help your children discover these books and other titles that are great for them by having them take the five finger test—and then unleash them into their summer activities armed with books that will inspire their imaginations and capture their full attention.
Guest Blogger: Cassie is a digital nomad who splits her time between writing internet security and entertainment of all kinds—music, movies, literature, etc. While she’s no genre snob, she’s got a penchant for children's literature thanks to the great pictures and larger than life story lines. Find her at @cassie_culture.