Summer Reading List

By Nora Heston Tarte

Summer is just around the corner, and kids are excited to give up homework for a few months. However, summer vacation shouldn’t equal a vacation from reading. Studies show that kids who read over summer do better in school the next year. Check out our teacher recommendations for the best books for summer for every age.

Entering TK/Kindergarten

“Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” by Nancy Carlson. 

This story tackles sensitive topics related to starting kindergarten. Henry, a mouse, deals with anxiety related to his first day of school. The good news is that anxiety goes away when he sees other children engaging in the exciting activities within the classroom and the warm greeting received from his teacher. 

“Pete the Cat Rockin’ in My School Shoes” by James Dean. 

Throughout the story, Pete is rocking in his school shoes and discovers the library, the lunchroom, the playground, and lots of other cool places at school.

“The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing. 

Children may recognize the cadence of this story, similar to “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Themes includes visions of items they will need such as backpacks and pencils, plus activities they will engage in at school.

“Kindergarten Rocks!” by Katie Davis. 

Dexter Dugan isn’t afraid of starting kindergarten because his big sister, Jessie, told him all about it. Dexter’s stuffed dog, however, is afraid. Could Dexter be projecting his feelings onto his pal? As the story unfolds, Rufus (and Dexter) learns he has nothing to fear because kindergarten rocks!

Grade School

Read these aloud, or let young readers read them to you.

“The Princess & The Pit Stop” by Ton Angleberger.

This story has girl power written all over it. Young readers can try to tackle the book themselves, or enjoy listening to it read to them. Cameos from nursery rhyme characters make it fun for readers of all ages.

“It Came in the Mail” by Ben Clanton.

A little boy loves getting mail, so he asks his mailbox to send him things, but what is the little boy to do when the mailbox sends him too much? This story tackles themes of greed and giving.

“Ramona the Pest” by Beverly Cleary.

Anything by Beverly Cleary is a good choice for this age group. Ramona can’t seem to keep herself out of trouble. From fights with classmates to a crush that doesn’t like her back, Ramona deals with a lot of the same trials and tribulations young readers are facing, too, which makes her a relatable character to follow.

“The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster.

In this story, Milo is bored with life. When a strange tollbooth appears in his room, however, everything changes. The story takes kids on fun adventures where they learn about conclusions, rhyme and reason, and, having a positive attitude.

Middle School

“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio.

Gabriela Galindo, an 8th-12th-grade teacher at one.Discover, a school in Stockton that is part of the SJCOE one.Program, says this is a book for all ages and actually recommends it to older readers, too. “It deals with deformities, bullying, standing up for your beliefs, friendships, and family dynamics,” she says. An added bonus is that there is a movie based on the book so families can watch it together after reading the book.

“A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness.

This scary tale deals with mature themes, and a 13-year-old protagonist middle school readers can relate to. Conor has suffered from nightmares since his mother got sick, so imagine his surprise when the monster that comes to his backyard isn’t the one from his dreams. The novel balances spooky themes with humor.

8th Grade+
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.

This book gives students a historical lesson about a specific time period and how prevalent racism was in the community. The bonus, however, is that it isn’t a dry read. “This book is very entertaining while at the same time very realistic about the time period it is set it in,” Gabriela says. “It deals with racism, community, and rising above it all.” Students often like when a book has a movie component, too, like this one does.

“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.

“Everyone I know remembers reading this book at one time or another in their school days,” Gabriela says. This is more of a classic and may land on a required reading list during high school. Kids who have already read it might have a leg up once it is assigned for homework.