Build-Your-Own Summer Reading Program

Reading recommendations from Dr. Alice Mar

May is here! If your family is like mine, May feels like a race to the finish line of the school year made more complicated by a seemingly never-ending list of spring activities. However, May also brings a promise of summer and long days of lazing around by the pool. And for me it means lots and lots of time to catch up on my to be read list.

A few years ago I found myself wondering how to approach summer reading with my kids. I had one kid who loved to read but would read only fantasy books.  I had another kid who was capable of reading but never stuck with a book long enough to finish it. We had done library reading programs which were great but didn’t quite meet our needs. So instead I came up with my own summer reading program.

I make a list of 9-12 books for each kid. Each child has to read one book a month from my list. They read more on their own but the list is way for me to push them a bit to read books that are a little harder than they might pick on their own or a little out of their usual comfort zone. I also try really hard to pick books that I know they will love because ultimately my goal is for them to enjoy reading. The best case scenario is that my list opens up new doors and worlds for them.

Here are sample lists for each of my kids from last summer as ideas.

For a rising 4th grade girl:

  • Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  • Tuesday’s at the Castle by Jessica Day
  • George Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  • The Tail of Emily Windsap by Liz Kessler Half
  • Magic by Edward Eager
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamison
  • The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

For a rising 7th grade boy:

  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkein
  • Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
  • March Book One by John Lewis
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

For a rising 10th grade boy:

  • The Disappearing Spoon by San Kean
  • All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
  • The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
  • Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Ultimate Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens