Summer is my best season (and not just because I’m a summer baby). Longer days and an abundance of sunshine fill me up through the 12ish weeks that seem to never last long enough. Fireflies and ice cream runs, camping trips and pool outings galore. Summer is good things to eat, road trips and reunions, and life on full tilt.
If you’re a parent (or educator), you know that the summer slide (where kids can and often do slip in their academic achievements) is real. One way to boost learning and ensure school readiness each fall (no matter what grade) is to continue reading over the summer. Not to mention, many libraries across the country offer Summer Reading programs. So read outside. Read in the car (if you can). Read in a hammock or on a picnic. Any place is a good place to read aloud with your kids! These 16 books, including three middle grade titles for older kids at the end, are some of the best summer-themed books around. So sit back, grab a lemonade, and crack open the cover.
By: Nikki McClure
A young boy peppers his mom with this question as he digs through the squishy spring earth and works alongside her to prepare for the seasonal shift. With intricate images created using an X-Acto knife and black paper, this book (also available in picture book format) is a favorite among young kids.
By: Gerda Miller
Wordless books are a wonderful way to engage wiggly readers because you can simply point to pictures and ask babies to find certain things. One of four books in a seasonal quartet, this one features a beach outing and many of the aforementioned wonders of summer.
By: Elisha Cooper
Open to an empty beach landscape. Blue sky, deeper ocean blue tones, and a band of sand. Each page turn ushers in more activity as the day progresses. People set up, gulls chase the tide, children play. Every breathtaking detail accounted for. We can’t wait for River to publish later this fall.
By: Sarvinder Naberhaus
An array of diverse faces showcased throughout this sparsely worded patriotic celebration of a nation. A wonderful read suited for close to the Fourth of July celebrations.
By: Paul B. Janeczko
Thirty-six short poems divided into each season of the year, paired with Melissa Sweet’s signature vibrant and layered images. Approachable for children of all ages, really.
By: Deborah Wiles
This book recounts the fictional story of two young boys (one black and one white), best friends that love to swim. And while it's an important story about race and friendship, it's also a tale of humanity and compassion. Standing up for what you believe in and fighting for freedom despite the seemingly insurmountable odds.*
By: Kelly Starling Lyons
“On reunion morning, we rise before the sun. Daddy hums as he packs our car with suitcases and a cooler full of snacks. He says there’s nothing like going down home." One of our favorite books published in 2019, it is a celebration of both family and fortitude. Click here for an interior look at this stunning book.
By: Gaia Cornwall
Before arriving at the pool Jabari is certain of his conviction to jump off the diving board. At the bottom of the ladder, however, he lets other kids in line go in front of him. Slowly he musters courage, as his dad tells him it’s okay to feel scared. A book that celebrates small summer victories.
By: Jessie Hartland
In a day where ships communicated by flag, the fledgling American colonies sought to design a clear message to tell the British to back-off. Soon Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore was enlisted to sew a flag for this purpose. Through the ensuing 1812 battle, the flag remained stalwart and clearly communicated a message of freedom. This nonfiction book may even prompt a visit to the Smithsonian to see the colossal two-century-old flag.
By: Charlotte Zolotow
A young boy asks his mother what it is like to visit the ocean. With exacting detail the mother describes the sights, sounds, and smells of any typical seashore excursion. Told with elegant illustrations, this book is a must for anyone that lives in a landlocked part of the world.
By: Curtis Manley
Nick spends summers doing everything with his cats. But when he sits down to read, the cats have other things in mind. In an effort to recruit his feline friends to enjoy reading time more, Nick begins using flashcards as a way to teach his pets. One cat takes to it readily, while the other needs prolonged persuading. A sweet and altogether familiar story for young kids also learning to read.
By: David Mackintosh
Every summer a young boy stays in the same cabin with his family at the beach. A cabin near his friend, Chicken Smith, for whom the boy is waiting. Readers learn of past summers through the boy’s recollections, but then, with a twinge of sadness, come to understand his friend isn’t coming. An endearing and slightly quirky tale about the unexpected changes of childhood.
By: Suzy Lee
A young girl spends a carefree day at the beach. Will she be able to outrun the taunting waves? What treasures will she find combing the sand surface? An absolutely stunning wordless picture book to read before any seaside outing.
FOR OLDER KIDS
By: Hope Larson
This fantastic middle grade graphic novel is ideal for readers expanding into new territorial boundaries (both physical and in personal interests). With several laugh-out-loud moments, the story reminds readers of the powerful connective force that enables music to bring people together.
By: Robert Heidbreder
With affable characters and ebullient illustrations, the unstructured wonder of cavorting about the countryside whilst spending the summer with grandparents is palpable in this collection of verse. You may want to return to this short read every summer.
By: Frank Viva
Eliot has no choice in the matter of his parents’ decision to send him to a remote Canadian fishing village for the summer. Ride the swells of what it means to feel tied to a place, beautifully depicted through each vibrant illustration. Heartbreaking at times, hopeful at others, the story will remain with you long after finishing the book.
*To read more about the civil rights Freedom Summer of 1964 we recommend this article.
After woking as a librarian for seven years, Miranda
started blogging and writing about children's books
nearly five years ago. She specializes in curating book
lists and recommendations for children ages 0-12,
parents, and educators. In addition, she has served as
a second round CYBILS judge on two separate
occasions. She is most passionate about reading
aloud with your kids and is the mother of two
daughters. When she's not working, Miranda enjoys
reading, traveling, and scouting new restaurants.