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.