Whether it's during a car ride to your next destination, poolside with the family or curled up on the couch at the end of another busy day, there are countless opportunities to fit stories and reading into your family's summer routine. Books help us escape and imagine, learn and understand, and wonder and ask. Reading together is a wonderful way to help our children work through challenges and get inspired by new ideas.
With a quick visit to the library or bookstore you'll soon have a fresh new pile of books on hand to nurture, fuel and inspire a need to read. To aid in your search for the perfect book, we compiled a list of thoughtful, new, relevant books by diverse and award-winning authors and illustrators for kids from primary to upper elementary to enjoy.
Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list—take a look through one of the lists provided by the alsc (Association for Library Service to Children) for more great reads.
Titles for Grades K-2
Summer by Cao Wenxuan, Illustrated by Yu Rong
Filled with rhyming, poetic fun and beautiful illustrations, this book begins with a peaceful, summer scene in the desert. This calm day is rapidly interrupted with a conflict—all of the animals need shade. While arguing over who was first to a single, shady tree, the animals make an important observation. This sparks an idea that allows them to all find respite in the shade together. "Summer" is a fun, fast-paced read that demonstrates ways to work through conflicts with friends, share and use our differences to help make sure everyone's similar needs are met.
A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead
"A Home for Bird" is one in a series of books by an especially thoughtful author and illustrator. In this story, Vernon the toad meets a quiet, new friend named Bird. Vernon believes that Bird is so quiet and seemingly unhappy (no matter what he shares with him) because he has lost his home. This sparks Vernon's ventures to help Bird find his way. It is a story of compassion, innovation and the kindness and importance of friends new and old.
Hey, Water by Antoinette Portis
Full of sight words and simple sentences, "Hey, Water," will take you and your little one on a thoughtful exploration of all the ways in which we can find and engage with, you guessed it, water! You'll be running through the sprinklers, filling the pool and searching for dew drops in no time! Not to mention, a couple of pages at the end are dedicated to the science of the different forms of water and the water cycle. "Hey, Water" is a great book to read aloud or along with young, emerging readers.
Day at the Beach by Tom Booth
Audrey and Gideon (siblings) have a history of building sandcastles at the beach together, but this time Gideon sets out with a plan to build all on his own. After multiple trials he finds success, but rather than feeling elated with his achievements, he feels lonely. Searching to resolve these feelings he finds his sister who is building a castle with his parents, and they come together to finish building her sandcastle together. It is a story of patience, teamwork and the importance of sibling friendships and family.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat
Through beautiful illustrations and limited words, "Drawn Together" tells the story of a young boy who finds a way to communicate and connect with his grandfather who speaks a different language than him. While the thoughts and the feelings of the characters are not explicitly stated, there is much to infer and discuss in the illustrated actions and expressions of the characters. This is a true example of a book that captures both life and language arts lessons through pictures.
Titles for Grades 3-5
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
This book is a follow up to 2012's popular title, "The One and Only Ivan." Bob the dog, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant gather again in this moving tale of friendship and family. While these two books do not need to be read in order, many readers who read "The One and Only Ivan" first found this book all the more intriguing since Bob was such a beloved character in the first novel. Separated by a tornado that strikes the zoo, the story of the animals' bravery, perseverance, and ability to work together no matter their differences is told heartwarmingly through the perspective of the fierce (and funny) Bob.
Rocket to the Moon! Big Ideas That Changed the World by Don Brown
"Rocket to the Moon! Big Ideas That Changed the World" is a non-fiction book on the history of rockets. Well-illustrated and researched, they cover the stories of men and women who've made incredible contributions to rocketry from the earliest days in which they were more so missiles than rockets all the way up to putting men on the moon. Highlighted figures include Neil Armstrong and Katherine Johnson (mathematician biographed in the film Hidden Figures). Reading this book will also expose young learners to the use and value of informational text features such as an index and a timeline.
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell
In "The Cardboard Kingdom," a group of diverse neighborhood kids with wild imaginations turn boxes into character costumes that fuel hours of play. Written and illustrated in graphic novel/cartoon style, each chapter focuses on the ideas and adventures of a particular character as they imagine their way from their human lives to roles as robots, sorcerers, and wild beasts. The short stories thematically show how imagination and play can still be fun and acceptable even as you grow up and face new challenges and responsibilities.
We're Not from Here by Geoff Rodkey
This science fiction novel chronicles the tale of a few earthlings who escape the ruin of a futuristic depiction of our planet, and travel to planet Choom. The trouble is that once the earthling family gets to Choom, the rulers of Choom have decided that they no longer want to allow earthlings on their planet due to the poor reputation of earthlings that spread on the planet during their journey. In order to save their lives, and the human race, they must find way to convince all the alien cultures of Choom to let them stay because if they just turn back, they'll run out of food and fuel! With complex themes and a thoughtful message about reaching understandings and coming together across cultural differences, this book will serve as an epic page turner for upper-elementary readers.
Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This is a new novel by the author of the award-winning "Esperanza Rising and Riding Freedom." The main character of this story is Maximiliano (Max) Córdoba, a young boy who loves playing fútbol and yearns to know his mother. Growing up, his abuelo (grandfather) shared with him legends of a gatekeeper who lead people safely to a place called mañanaland (tomorrowland). As these legends begin to reveal themselves as realities, Max sets out for answers. With elements of mystery and fantasy, this realistic fiction is a powerful, moving tale well suited for readers in fourth grade through middle school.
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