Kids’ Book Corner: Cool Classics for Summer

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It’s a fact: Kids who don’t read enough during the summer return to school worse at reading than when they left in June. Kids who struggle with reading suffer even more serious losses. But literacy experts have discovered that if kids read six books over the summer they can avoid this skill deficit and even improve their skills.

How to get your child to read six books? Make reading part of everything your family does this summer: Traveling, hiking, swimming, even watching the Olympics on television. Let kids choose their own books, or offer books on subjects that really interest them: jokes, magic, dogs, fish, birds, rocks, legos, gardening, cars, outer space, bugs, cartooning, kites, motorcycles, ghosts, chocolate or even Katy Perry.

Make sure your child has his or her own library card and make a trip to the library a weekly event. Share cookbooks with your kids when planning family meals. Share the newspaper with your kids: the sports page, the daily advice column, fashion pages and/or the weather forecast. Ask children to read aloud to younger siblings. Bring books about the ocean, clouds, sand, stars or shells to the beach. Provide travel books to your children before you reach your vacation destination. Have kids read along to books on tape while on the plane or on long car trips. Start a summer book club for your children. Share your own childhood favorites with your children.

Here are a few of my own favorite summer reads for kids. They’re also smart and engaging enough for adults who want to read along:

Secret Letters from 0-10 by Susie Morgenstern is the delightful, mysterious and surprising story of ten-year-old Parisan boy’s colorless existence and his life-altering and joyous friendship with a vivacious girl and her large and affectionate family. 9 and up.

The Wheel on the School by Meindert de Jong tells the story of how a young girl finds a way to bring nesting storks back to her village in Holland. This award-winning story is fresh, beautiful and unforgettable. 8 and up.

The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John is the suspenseful story of a lonely eleven-year-old girl and the rare white giraffe that becomes her friend on a game reserve in South Africa. Ostriches, wildebeest, kudus, leopards, warthogs, baboons, waterbucks, elephants and zebras populate a world of secrets and adventure. 6 and up.

The Trolls by Polly Horvath. When the babysitter falls ill on the eve of their trip to Paris, Mr. And Mrs. Anderson recruit Aunt Sally to care for PeeWee, Amanda and Melissa. Though the kids only know her through her Christmas cards, Aunt Sally cures their longing for their absent parents with jokes, delicious fiddlehead ferns, and stories about growing up on Vancouver Island. They hear the tale of the clam who bit their father’s finger and saved him from a violin performance he dreaded; of great Uncle Louis, who came for two weeks and stayed for six years, of two dogs named Mrs. Gunderson; of ferocious waves and the trolls who could bring out the worst in anyone, even Aunt Sally. 9 and up.

The Artsy Smartsy Club by Daniel Pinkwater is the unforgettable tale of Nick, Loretta, Bruno and Henrietta, Nick’s 6-foot tall pet chicken, mysterious chalk drawings that appear on the sidewalks of Hoboken, New Jersey, and what it really means to be an artist. 8 and up.

I recommend this one every summer: The Absolutely True Story Of How I Visited Yellowstone Park with The Terrible Rupes by Willow Davis Roberts is a hilarious summer mystery about kids and  the neighbors’ children on a road trip to Yellowstone. 9 and up.

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements. Teenagers will connect to this novel about a young man who wakes up one day and discovers he’s invisible. This smart and fast-moving novel let’s us see the many ways we can be invisible to one another. 12 and up.

Grayson by Lynne Cox. Cox is one of the most accomplished open-water swimmers in the world. Grayson tells the true story of the day she encountered lost whale calf in the waters off Southern California and what she had to do to save him. 11–adult.

Jo Perry has a Ph.D. in English, taught literature and writing, and worked as a college administrator and as a television writer and producer. She is a reviewer for and is an ongoing contributor to kidsLA Magazine for which she writes about the city, children’s books, and conducts interviews. For two years she wrote the Kids’ Book Club column for the L.A. Times’ Kids’ Reading Room page.


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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