The Ultimate Summer Reading List Post

Do you want to keep your kids reading over the summer? You can pick up a summer reading list for all ages here! You’ll also find free printable lists and reading records.

Whether you homeschool or your children go to traditional schools, summer time can be a great time to focus on reading. Libraries and book stores often have reading incentive programs. And if you’re taking a school break, reading is a better alternative than constant television and electronics.

If you’ve loved the idea of introducing great books to your children but you just find yourself too busy, challenge your kids to read at least ten great living books over the summer with a summer reading list.

In this post, I’m listing some great living books that you can share with your child this summer. Read them aloud or bribe encourage your children to read them independently.

Summer reading list
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Want to help kids set a goal and keep track of the books they’re reading? Make sure you pick up this free Summer Reading Records and Booklists packet. It’s got a printable copy of each booklist you can take to the library, as well as a variety of reading records sheets kids can use to keep track of their summer reading.

Summer Reading List for Preschool and Kindergarten

This summer reading list for little ones includes some classic books as well as some newer reads. These will make for some read aloud story times through the summer.

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco– Grandpa and Mary Ellen head off to chase down a bee tree when Mary Ellen gets tired of reading her book.

Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaolo– Author and artist Tomie dePaolo tells this story from his boyhood. He loves visiting his grandmother and great grandmother living upstairs and down, but he’s said when he finds out that Nana Upstairs won’t be there anymore.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle– This classic for preschoolers will guide children through identifying various animals and describing their observations.

The House That Jack Built by J.P. Miller- This rhyming story is a fun read aloud because of the series of events that come about. It’s fun when kids can begin to predict what comes next.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown- This is a sweet story about a little bunny whose mom follows him everywhere as he tries to run away.

Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty– This story for little ones is a retelling of the classic tale of Androcles and the Lion.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf– Ferdinand, although a big and brawny bull, has no desire to fight. He only wants to sit and enjoy nature. Until one day, Ferdinand meets a bee and has his big moment in the bullring.

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon– Stellaluna is a fruit bat, separated from her mother one night by an owl attack. Raised by a family of birds, she’s one day reunited with her family. It’s a sweet story that explores similarities and differences.

Over in the Meadow by Olive A. Wadsworth and Ezra Jack Keats- This picture book has the classic rhyme accompanied by beautiful pictures from Ezra Jack Keats.

Come on, Rain by Karen Hesse– Tess is hoping for rain on a day when everything is drooping and sweltering. When rain comes, Tess, her mother, and the whole neighborhood celebrate.

Summer Reading List for Elementary Ages

The books on the summer reading list for your elementary kids are ones they can read independently or that you can enjoy reading aloud.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater– This is the classic story of Mr. Popper and his accidental accumulation of penguins. It’s a funny and charming story of the Popper family and all of their penguin adventures. (And of course, the book is better than the movie!)

Stuart Little by E.B. White– Stuart Little is a little mouse on a big adventure. Stuart is special because he was born to a normal human family, but he’s a, well, a mouse. The classic story is his adventure to rescue his best friend- a small bird. (And, again, the movie is no substitute!)

Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak-Although many “learn to read” books for younger children seem choppy and wouldn’t make the cut as a “living book”, the Little Bear books are excellent for new readers to begin to read independently. Written simply, the stories are sweet and interesting as well as easy to read.

George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz– Illustrated by one of my favorite authors and illustrators- Tomie dePaola, this is the story of George Washington Allen and his research into his famous namesake. Kids can enjoy an interesting story and learn quite a bit about this famous American hero.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan- This story, set in the West during the time of pioneers and mail order brides, is a story told by Anna, a young girl whose mother died in childbirth with her younger brother. Anna’s father has sent to the East for a new bride and mama for Anna and Caleb. Sarah comes to get to know the family and decide if she is going to stay.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne– Although most children have heard of Pooh, many have never heard the stories about the bear of little brain. The Pooh stories are sweet and funny. And kids will love hearing about the adventures Pooh and his friends find.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton– The Borrowers are a tiny family living beneath the kitchen floor in an English manor house. All is well until Pod- the father of the family- is spotted up above. The story is the adventures the family faces trying to remain in their home.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald-Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house, smells like cookies, and was once married to a pirate. All of the local children love her. And she seems to have the answer for any behavior problems the parents might face with their children as well. With creative cures for everything from children who always talk back to children who won’t go to bed, the things she comes up with make for funny and entertaining reading.

American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne– Some of America’s most famous heroes of tall tales are described in these retellings. Men like Paul Bunyan and John Henry and women like Sally Ann Thunder and Whirlwind are introduced to children.

Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine by Evaline Ness– Sam, a fisherman’s daughter, loves to make up stories. Her father is often cautioning her to tell the difference between reality and “moonshine.” Sam finally learns her lesson in a hard way when her tales bring danger to a young friend.

Summer Reading List for Middle Grade Kids

In this summer reading list for your middle grade kids, you’ll find some great books for discussion as well as some that are just fun reads.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling- These stories from the author of The Jungle Book are fanciful tellings of how things came to be. Kipling first told these stories to his own children and later wrote them down to share. Even though they are tales of make believe, they are entertaining for older children (and adults!).

King of the Wind: the Story of the Godolphin Arabian by Marguerite Henry– All of Marguerite Henry’s horse stories are excellent, but I loved King of the Wind. Readers follow the story of Sham and his stable boy Agba. Sham is born in the stables of the Sultan of Morocco and, through much adventure, comes to England where he becomes the father of a line of thoroughbred horses.

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli- Set in medieval times this is the story of Robin. He finds himself alone and without the use of his legs after an illness. His father is away at war, and his mother has gone to be a handmaid to the queen. A kindly monk comes to Robin’s aid. And as they travel together and Robin finds a new home, Robin learns that his disability isn’t the end of all things.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes- When young Johnny injures his hand in a bad accident, he can no longer apprentice as a silversmith. Instead he becomes an messenger boy and finds himself delivering messages for the Sons of Liberty. Set during the American Revolution, this is historical fiction that will make the Revolution come alive.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare- Daniel is a Jew during the time of the Roman rule in Israel. His goal in life is to get revenge on the Romans for what they’ve done to his family. Daniel’s thoughts about revenge and honor begin to change when he meets a traveling carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth.

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood- Widge is assigned by his master to steal one of Shakespeare’s works- Hamlet. He doesn’t want to do it, but, without a choice, he works his way into the globe theater. The story has twists, turns, and drama, and readers learn quite a bit about Shakespeare and the times in which he lived.

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman– This story is the fictional diary of a young girl who lived in the 1200s. It’s her coming-of-age tale as she faces the possibility of being married off in her fourteenth year. It also gives readers a glance at life in the Middle Ages as Birdy talks about her daily life.

Indian Captive: the Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski– Based on a true story, the book follows Mary as she’s kidnapped from her early-American home and taken to live with the Seneca Indians. As Mary learns the Seneca’s customs and ways, readers get a great glimpse into Native American life.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry- This is a fictionalized account of the true story of the Danish resistance’s efforts to smuggle Jews out of Denmark after German occupation. Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in her best friend- who is Jewish- and helps to get her to safety out of the country.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle– Meg Murry has never given up hope that her father is returning- even though he’s been gone for so long that most people outside of her family assume he left for good. Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin get caught up in a search for her father that takes them beyond the realm of our planet and of time.

Summer Reading List for High School

The books on this high school reading list are some that your kids may encounter in high school literature classes.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– Okay, it’s a book that will appeal more to girls. But, Jane has such spunk and is such an awesome heroine that boys will like her too. (Or they should.) I’m a little prejudiced toward this classic about a young girl growing up in hard times, finding true love, and ultimately riding things work out in her favor. It was my favorite book in high school, and I don’t even know how many times I’ve read it. The most recent video adaptation is pretty good, but don’t watch it until after reading the book because the book is always better.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok– Boys may gravitate toward this class a little easier. The main characters are two boys who grow up together. The two both come from Jewish families in New York in the 1940s Although both Jewish, the two have very different families. When reports of the Holocaust begin to reach the US, the two boys’ lives will be forever altered. This is a coming of age story that explores the power of friendships and family relationships.

Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton Porter– Set in post Civil War America, this story has as it’s hero a young man who often seems too good to be true. His story is told by his younger sister who idolizes him. It’s a great book for catching a glimpse of the importance of faith and family, and it’s a good picture of the time period.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody- The reading level of this book is probably below the high school level, and I’ve used it as a read aloud when my children were younger. But it’s a very “heavy” book at times, and the subject matter might be more easily read independently by high schoolers. It’s a sometimes fictionalized memoir of the author of the events in his life after he and his family moved from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch when he was eight years old. There are humorous moments, but there are also some very moving moments.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (and John and Elizabeth Sherrill)– Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch young woman during the second world war. She helped her father- a watchmaker. During the Holocaust, she and her family became leaders in the resistance, hiding Jewish people as they made their escape from the Nazis. This is Corrie’s story. She’s an amazing story teller and a woman of great faith. Her story will make an impact on any reader.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee– This is a story told through the eyes of eight-year-old Scout Finch. She lives with her brother and father in a small Southern town in the 1950s. Scout’s father Atticus is a lawyer, and when he becomes the defending lawyer for a black man involved in a trial, the family experiences firsthand the racial tensions simmering in the town. The story isn’t just about race, though. It’s one of family and human kindness.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain– This classic is just a fun read. Because of the dialect and unusual spellings used to portray the dialect of southern whites and blacks, the book can be harder reading, which is why it’s on my high school list. The story is set in the late 1800s in a small Mississippi town. Tom is a young scoundrel who lives with his aunt Polly. He gets into every scrape and bit of mischief he can and ends up in the midst of a big adventure. The novel is a great portrayal of the historical time period.

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson- This touching novel is a coming of age story that’s all about self-realization. Louise and Caroline are twins. But they’re nothing alike. Louise has always felt as if Caroline is the favored twin. Caroline is musically gifted and so gets special attention for it while Louise spends her days helping her father with crab fishing. Any child with siblings can probably relate especially to this story.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan– This timeless classic, written in the 1600s by John Bunyan while he was in prison for religious persecution, is a book no one should miss out on. I usually begin by reading one of the young reader’s versions aloud( Little Pilgrim’s Progress or Dangerous Journey), and then the older kids can read the original independently with a better knowledge of what it’s about. It’s the classic, allegorical story of Christian’s journey to the Celestial City.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis– This is the first book in Lewis’ space trilogy. These books have quite a different feel than the well-known Chronicles of Narnia. But they are rich in description and in meaning. In this first installment, Dr. Ransom, a scientist, finds himself on Malacandra- or what we know as Mars. He is taken there by a very learned researcher and his accomplice because the two men need a human sacrifice. Ransom escapes and finds himself learning about the planet and the people there. Hopefully this book will nudge readers to want to read the other two in the series as well.

Summer reading list

Keep the kids occupied this summer with these summer reading lists. If you’re looking for more reading suggestions, check out my free Living Books Catalog here. And don’t forget to pick up the printables pack with a copy of the booklists for the library and printable reading records too motivate kids.

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