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Summer Reading for Parents and Kids

My children and I have always loved to read! We do our best to squeeze in some time to read every day. In the summer, though, when we have a more relaxed scheduled, we are usually able to get in a little extra reading time each day.

family reading book together

Even though we homeschool year round, we don’t do a full school schedule during the summer. That leaves us with more time to read than usual, and we take advantage of it! (To read our article about the benefits of year-round homeschooling and find free printable calendars, click this link!)

I recently published an article called Read with Your Teen This Summer. It contains ideas for books to read with your teens this summer so you can spend some time together, have fun, learn more about each other, and build a stronger relationship. So I thought it would be fun to share a similar article for those who have children and pre-teens too! (Or if you have a very mature pre-teen, you may want to use the Read with Your Teen This Summer suggestions instead.) First, I’ll make suggestions for babies and toddlers. Then you’ll find suggestions for those with elementary-age students and pre-teens.

NOTE: Please keep in mind that the books on these Amazon lists may change. We suggest reading (or at least glancing over) books for children of all ages before giving the books to your children or reading them together in order to avoid problems.

Books to Read with Babies and Toddlers

  • Interactive books: Most babies and toddlers love interactive books! These might include lift-the-flap books, books that encourage your children to repeat words or phrases, books that encourage them to clap their hands or perform other actions, or books that require them to press buttons to hear a song, etc.
  • Board books: These books are made of thick paperboard so they stand up to rough handling and even being chewed on! They are great for babies because they usually have only a few words per page, and they usually contain lots of colorful images. You can find board books on all sorts of topics from farm animals to zoo animals, from letters to numbers, and from body parts to types of clothing.
    • There are lots and lots of great board books for little ones! Click here for some suggestions.
    • I remember one of the board books I loved reading to my children when they were very small was I Am a Bunny.
    • If you’re not familiar with the board books by Sandra Boynton, you have to try them! I read them to my children and to all of my nieces and nephews, and we all absolutely love them!
  • Picture books: There are lots and lots (and lots!) of great picture books for young children! Picture books are simply books with beautiful illustrations that play a larger role in the story than the text. The pictures aren’t always colorful, but many picture books do contain colorful pictures. The pictures may be photos, drawings, paintings, etc.
  • Fairy tales: Most children enjoy fairy tales. Look for simplified versions for very young children. You can probably find fairy tales in board books and certainly in picture books. These may be familiar stories if you’ve told your children fairy tales as bedtime stories or during play time, or they may be unfamiliar, but in either case, they’ll be fun to read together.
    • Click this link to find some fairy tale and nursery rhyme books for babies and toddlers!
  • Non-fiction books: Even babies and young children can enjoy a non-fiction book now and then! You’ll find books with photos and names of animals, books with basic vocabulary in other languages, books about things such as community helpers, and more!
  • Books of poetry: There are some lovely books of poetry for very young children! Even if you don’t tend to love poetry yourself (and especially if you do!), many young children enjoy poetry because of they lyrical sounds and rhythms. Give it a try!
  • Books about night time and bedtime: My children used to love to read books about bedtime! They enjoyed reading about bedtime routines and the animals that are active during the night. They enjoyed “saying goodnight” to children in books. I think they enjoyed seeing what happens at night because, honestly, most children go to bed fairly early and don’t get to see a lot of what the world looks like at night.
    • This link will take you to lots of great choices for bedtime books.
  • Books about animals: Almost all children love books about animals! Children seem to be naturally interested in animals, animals sounds, where animals live, baby animals, and pretty much anything else having to do with animals. There are some wonderful touch-and-feel books that allow children to touch fabrics that give them the feeling that they’re touching animals.
    • There are many great books for little ones who are interested in all sorts of animals! You’ll find books about insects, animals in the ocean, zoo animals, pets, and more when you click this link!
  • Books about plants: While many people think to read books about animals to their babies, some may not think to read books about plants! But there are some wonderful books available about plants, how they grow, and even how they produce food for people.

Books to Read with Children

  • Picture books: Yes, this is also on the list for babies and toddlers! Even elementary -age children often love to read a good picture book. You may want to choose some good picture books that contain more text than those you read when your children were babies and toddlers–especially if your children are mid-to-upper elementary ages and have longer attention spans. There are great picture books available for all ages!
    • Even when my children were in the upper elementary years, they still enjoyed picture books for young children. There are also some wonderful picture books for children who are 8 to 12 years old or so! No matter what age your children are, take a look at some of these picture books and choose some you can enjoy together.
  • Fairy tales: This is another type of book that was also on the list for babies. Of course there are some wonderful fairy tales for older children. Try reading different versions and comparing them if your children are old enough to enjoy it. Or have your child tell you the fairy tale from memory and then compare it to a book that tells the story differently. You may even want to do a writing activity in which your child rewrites a fairy tale to make it different on purpose. I did this with my children when they were around 10 years old or so, and we all had a lot of fun with it!
  • Non-fiction books: Older children should definitely be encouraged to read non-fiction books–at least now and then. There are lots and lots of types on non-fiction books to choose from! Make your decision based on your children’s interests or even to introduce them to a new city, state, or country or a new culture or career opportunity. Read non-fiction books about heroes, sports, weather, gardening, the human body, holidays, history, and outer space. There are so many wonderful options!
  • Books of poetry: I never thought I liked poetry until I began reading it with my children. Then I realized that I enjoy it very much! There are some really fun books of poetry available, and there are books of poetry on certain topics. There are rhyming books and books of rhymes. Try different kinds of poetry. You may find that you enjoy it even if you didn’t think you would!
  • Books of mythology: You may choose to study myths along with your history studies, or you might want to read some myths just for fun. Or both! Myths can introduce your children to other cultures and can help them learn more about their own. They can also help us learn more about ourselves and our values and beliefs.
    • My children and I completely enjoyed reading books of mythology together! Some of our favorites, especially when my kids were older, were the books by the D’Aulaires. Click this link to find some of their wonderful books of myths and historical books too.
  • Books that are a higher reading level: It is good to read books to your child that are a little above that child’s independent reading level. This is a wonderful way to teach children how to be very expressive when they read. How to use voices and inflection and cadence to really make a story come alive. It’s also a great way to introduce them to new vocabulary in a stress-free way since they can often understand new words in context when they hear them. And if they don’t understand them, it’s easy to take a quick moment to stop and discuss them. Reading books of a higher reading level aloud to your child gives that child something to strive for as his or her reading improves.
    • These are some popular books for teens. (You’ll want to be very sure to carefully screen these books before choosing which ones to read with your children since we have not read all of these books. You are the best judge of which books are appropriate to read with your children.)
  • Blank books: These are books with blank pages for your children to create their own books, and they are so much fun! I have some that my children wrote when they were small, and I’m sure I’ll keep them forever. There are some with completely blank pages, and there are others (that are more like notebooks) with ruled lines at the bottom for writing and blank space at the top for drawing illustrations. This is a great way to give kids who don’t love to write a reason to get excited about writing!
  • Books about topics they’re interested in: It’s a good idea to read books on topics your children already have an interest in–at least now and then. Yes, we want to introduce our children to new topics and information, but sometimes it’s nice to read a book that feels familiar or that is about something we already know and love. It allows us to take a break from being challenged and to just enjoy reading (or being read to) in a fun and easy way. We don’t want to always insist on challenging topics or our children may become frustrated and lose their excitement for reading.
    • Because children have such varied interests, I didn’t try to come up with a list for these books. You’ll be the best judge of your own children’s interests. If you’re not sure how to find books on topics your children love, just go to Amazon, choose the books category (at the top beside the search bar), and then type in “kids books about sports” or whatever topic you want. To narrow down your search, you can choose (in the sidebar) books of certain ratings, age ranges, etc.
  • Books that were your own favorites when you were a child: My children used to love it when I read books to them that had been favorites of mine when I was a child. I suppose it gave them a tiny bit of insight into what I was like when I was their age. As I read, I sometimes stopped and told them why I had enjoyed a particular book or passage in a book. Occasionally this led to some really great discussions! And it was just plain fun for me to revisit some of my old favorite books with my own kids.
    • Some books I enjoyed when I was a child were the Beverly Cleary books.
    • And, while it may sound strange, The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh is actually a great book for children–not babies and toddlers. I loved it, and I read it with my children when they were of elementary school age.
  • Historical fiction: If you feel strongly about it, you can read historical non-fiction instead, but my children and I have always enjoyed historical fiction. It’s usually easier to understand and more fun to read. Yes, that means some people and events may have been changed a little, but as long as your children are old enough to understand that, I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve always felt like these books are a wonderful way of making history seem more real and to help my children become more interested in learning about historical people and events and to understand them better.
  • Non-book “books”: Do you have a child who just isn’t interested in reading? Try starting with comic books or even comic strips if necessary. Or read magazines on a topic your child enjoys. Some children enjoy graphic novels (the books that are written in comic book style). You might even want to try audiobooks.
    • Many kids enjoy comic books! (Be sure, just like with any other books, to screen the comic books to be sure you choose those that are appropriate for your children.) These can be a wonderful way to get kids to read in a way they’ll enjoy.
    • Magazines for kids are another great way to encourage reading and make it fun. They may also help encourage kids to read since they contain shorter stories that can be read quickly so reading doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming.
    • Graphic novels are another way to get children encouraged in books and reading.
  • Rebus books: Do you remember reading these books as a child? I do! These are books in which pictures represent certain words or phrases. In other words, instead of including the word house, there is a picture of a house in each place where that word would have been used. Instead of using the word bicycle, there is a picture of a bicycle. These are fantastic books to read together with struggling readers because they encourage the child to follow along with you as you read (so the child knows when to “read” the next picture), and they allow the child to feel like he or she is reading even if that child isn’t able to read many words just yet. Many rebus “books” are actually very short stories included in magazines.

There are so many great books and kinds of books for babies, toddlers, and children! It’s important to set aside the time to read and spend time together, and I truly do hope these suggestions are helpful as you choose some books to read with your children this summer. Maybe you’ll be encouraged to venture outside of your comfort zone and try some new and different books! Maybe you’ll discover new interests or hobbies or learn new information. Or maybe you’ll just spend some amazing time with your children and build stronger relationships with them this summer. And that’s the best thing about summer reading!

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