Summer reading ideas for families

Summer break is either in full swing or nearly upon families all across North America. Our kids have been out of school for about three weeks now. For the most part, it’s been uneventful, which is what happens when you have young people who can mostly entertain themselves. The older two mostly read and make art throughout the day. The youngest plays outside, reads, and plays videos games.

Reading has always been a big part of our kids’ lives. It’s primarily how Emily and I entertain ourselves, so they have all seen reading modeled. As a result, they all tend to read a great deal. There are more books than any of us know what to do with in every room of our house. It’s wonderful.

But even so, my family has had to work to maintain certain rhythms, especially around reading. And especially when our regular routines are disrupted. You may have had similar experiences. Perhaps you’re experiencing it right now. If so, here are a few summer reading tips that have been helpful for my family over the years

Plan family read-aloud time

This was huge for us when our kids were little. We needed routine to keep the ship running, and family read-aloud time was a big part of that. So every day at around 9 in the morning was family read-aloud time. Emily would typically take the lead, choosing a book that would appeal primarily to the older kids that she would also hopefully enjoy. She would read a chapter at a time in the engaging way that she does—lots of different voices and dramatic flair to boot. The kids always had a blast, even if they didn’t always love the book.

For many parents, this may be the most important of all the ideas I can give you. Plan the time. Make it part of the routine. Set that expectation because when you do, it’s a game changer. Okay, now to another part of your regular routine…

Go to the library every week (or more)

Right up until the pandemic hit, we were a multiple trips to the library-per-week family. Emily would take the kids every Wednesday and would spend the entire morning there. The kids would choose what they wanted and bring a giant stack of books home every time. This was a wonderful way to have an outing and create the sense of a reward (without having to buy anything). Speaking of rewards…

Participate in summer reading challenges

When I was a kid, I loved participating in reading challenges over the summer partly because they gave me an excuse to do what I enjoyed doing already. But the reward aspect was really fun too. Every week, I would diligently fill out my reading card, take it to the library to get signed, get another book or three, and at the end, I would get the prize: my choice of one of a selection of books.

And it’s not just libraries that offer these challenges—bookstores do as well. And if you don’t have either nearby, you can always create your own for yourself or the kids. Choose up to 6 books that you loved growing up that you want to share with your child (or children). Set simple prizes for each milestone along the way. Make a checklist. Then, you’re off to the races.

Recommended books for summer reading

So, now you’ve got a few handy tips to get you started. But what about some recommended summer reading? While this list won’t be exhaustive, here are a few that I would recommend for families to enjoy together:

Epic: The Story that Change the World and Big Truths Bible Storybook. Is it self-serving to recommend a couple of books I wrote? Maybe. But because spiritual formation is important, these are two highly accessible reads that will help kids learn how the whole Bible tells the gospel story, and how key truths of the faith are revealed on every page. (Note: these books are ideal for kids 8 and up.)

Tales that Tell the Truth by Trillia Newbell, Dan DeWitt, Lauren Chandler, Carl Lafterton, et al. This series of books is among my favorites for parents of younger kids (they’re terrific for kids ages 5-8). All the authors do an exceptional job of capturing the essence of every Bible passage and concept adapted in a way that hooks little people the way a good story should. While my kids don’t read these as often anymore (they’re all well past age 8), we are so glad to have these in our home, especially when friends with small children come to visit. Specific favorites include:

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. This one is just flat-out hilarious. No pictures, not even a real story. Just pure silliness that will make kids and parents laugh like crazy.

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Our kids loved these books; even our youngest got into it about halfway through, once he saw how much his sisters enjoyed it (it was a bit over his head initially). Ideal for kids over the age of seven, this epic fantasy adventure with humor and heart is hard to beat. And speaking of which…

The Green Ember Saga by S.D. Smith. This series of books is still a favorite for the same reasons as The Wingfeather Saga. Smith did an excellent job creating compelling characters and a story that felt like it mattered—no small feat for a book about anthropomorphized rabbits. These two series are, I think, largely responsible for my oldest daughter’s love of world-building in stories.

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

My favorite books of 2021

It’s reading recap season once again—which means it is time to share my favorite books of 2021. Check out the list and discover one to add to your 2022 reading pile.

A big announcement on a special day…

As many of you may know, April 1 is an important day in my life as an author. It is the day when many of my most well-received books have been announced or released. Epic made its way into peoples’ hands on that day. The Bar Is Low brought a realistic view of what marriage can be. And today, I have the pleasure of announcing a new book.

It is a book still without a title, but one that has been nagging at me in the background for 6 years:

It’s a book for adult new believers trying to figure out the mess of being an adult new believer (and how the church can help them) by someone who was an adult new believer.

This book is tentatively planned to be released in Spring 2022 from the good people at Lexham Press. Lots of work to do, but I’m excited for you all go read it this time next year.

Epic Devotions is Now Available!

My latest book, Epic Devotions: 52 Weeks in the Story that Changed the World, is now available! If you’ve already ordered the book, you should be receiving it in your mailbox today. If not, now’s the perfect time to get it!

Family Devotions Through the Big Story of Scripture

Like Epic before it, Epic Devotions is a great way to help your older kids and preteens—and the whole family—engage with the gospel story through 52 weekly weekly readings from all of Scripture.

Three requests to help Epic Devotions launch well

  • Please get a copy for yourself and your family.
  • Please leave a rating and review on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews really do make a difference in helping people know if this is the right book for their needs.
  • Please pray that this resource will help kids and families see the big story of Scripture more clearly and love Jesus more deeply.

Epic Devotions is available now from LifeWay, Amazon, and most other major resellers.

Coming Soon: Epic Devotions!

A few months back, my most recent major project, Epic: The Story That Changed the World, released to a great deal of positive response. Well, in just a few short weeks, Epic is going to have a new kid brother: Epic Devotions: 52 Weeks in the Story that Changed the World!

Family Devotions Through the Big Story of Scripture

Epic Devotions takes middle-grade readers through the big story of Scripture in 52 weekly readings with relevant discussion and application questions. Like Epic before it, this book is an excellent way to help your older kids and preteens engage with the gospel story, and I hope you’ll check it out. 

Take a look inside:

Epic Devotions is available for preorder from Amazon, LifeWay, and most other major resellers. If you’re looking for a helpful gift for Christmas, this would be a great one to consider!

EPIC is now available!

My latest book, Epic: The Story that Changed the World, is now available! On Monday at TGC19, almost every copy sold out, with only a couple remaining for Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’ve ordered a copy, you should be receiving it any time now.

Isn’t that nice?

A couple of quick things:

  • First, if you’ve received your copy, please do leave a rating and review on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews really do make a difference in helping people know if this is the right book for their needs.
  • Most importantly, please pray that this book would help kids and families see the big story of Scripture more clearly and love Jesus more deeply.

Help EPIC launch well in 3 easy steps!

My latest book, Epic: The Story that Changed the World, releases on April 1. As you can tell, I’m getting excited. This is the first time I’ve written for children, so I’m looking forward to seeing how kids engage with the book.

So, how can you help the book launch well? Here are three easy ways:

  1. Pre-order Epic for your family. Right now, the best price is still, Amazon has it for a great price as well. (And if you pre-order today, you’ll be able to get it the day it releases when ordering from Amazon.) If you’re at TGC in Indianapolis next week, you can purchase a copy in the conference bookstore!
  2. Sign-up here to request a review copy. B&H Publishing has offered up a few copies of the book to give away. We’re looking for 10 reviewers to read and publish an honest review of Epic. You can sign up for your review copy here.
  3. Tell a friend! Do you know someone with kids ages 8-12 looking for a good book to engage their kids with the big story of Scripture? Tell them about this book. Whether you share about it on Facebook, chat at church, or at a coffee shop, anything you can do to help spread the word is appreciated! In fact, here’s a handy social graphic to help:
Feel free to save this graphic and share. 🙂

Thanks for your help, friends!

The big project reveal!

In the summer of 2018, I had to take an unexpected blogging break, but I couldn’t tell any of you all why exactly, beyond “I was working on a really big project.” Then a few weeks ago, I shared the contractually obligated contract photo: the big project was something for B&H Publishing; but at the time, I still couldn’t say what it was.

But now, I can—in part because Dave (my friend, co-host on Table of malContents, and head of B&H Marketing) spoiled it toward the end of this week’s episode (if you’re not already listening, please do check it out). Which I take to mean that I now have the thumbs up. So here it is:

This Spring, EPIC: The Story That Changed The World will be released from B&H Kids. EPIC is a brand-new graphic-novel-inspired book[1. ie, not a graphic novel; it’s probably best described as an illustrated novel] engaging older kids and preteens with the One Big Story of Scripture through its retelling of 40 biblical narratives, and life-application questions.

Here’s a quick look inside:

EPIC is a great way to engage your kids with the gospel story, and I hope you’ll check it out. My son has already started reading it (and he’s younger than the intended audience); so far, nothing but positive words from him (and he’s not just being nice because I’m his dad).

The boy is super-pumped to read it.

You can pre-order EPIC now at (where it is currently on sale for 40% off!). You can also pre-order at CBD, [easyazon_link identifier=”1535938129″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”strongarm-20″][/easyazon_link], or your preferred bookstore.

Thanks friends!