Summer reading good for parents and children

When you hear of parents and children reading together, you
almost always picture a mom or dad with a toddler on their lap
enjoying a book with pictures or rhymes, à la Dr. Seuss. We know
early reading helps young children master the language, improve
concentration, and strengthen speech and logical thinking skills —
all good things.

If it’s so important to read together at that early age, then why
not later on, as our children get a bit older and have more
liberty to choose their reading material?

It turns out to be so. Children’s literacy and language arts
expert Diane Frankenstein says that parents should become more,
not less, involved when kids start to read independently.

“A child’s reading will improve the more they enjoy reading, and
they will enjoy reading stories that tap into their curiosity and
interests, stories where they care about the characters and what
happens to them,” Frankenstein said.

While teachers encourage students to keep reading over the summer,
I got to thinking about how I might challenge my own kids to
explore some new books with me over the next three months.

We all enjoy a good story in my family. My wife and I have read
with our children since they were very young. We want them to be
exposed to, and to appreciate, good literature and storytelling.
And, we want their mastery of literacy skills to develop as they
grow.]So, we’ve introduced our own summer reading challenge. We
will read a selection of books together, and talk about what we’ve
read as we go. It fulfills our underlying educational agenda for
our kids and ensures a summer of fun reading for everyone.

There are only a few basic rules.

This is for fun. There is no real timetable, no predetermined
number of books to read, and no penalty for going slow.

“Children need comprehension — not speed — to be good readers,”
Frankenstein said.

Each child makes his or her own independent choices about what to
read. (It’s on me to keep up with both of them.)

However, half of the choices must come from a list of suggested
books we’ve compiled with the help of my library media specialist
friend Edie Wilcox from HFM BOCES and our local librarian. And,
the titles picked from the list have to be first-time reads.

We all commit to reading at least 30 minutes every day (easy for
the girl, more of a challenge for the boy, our more reluctant

What will we read?

I’m a bit older and was concerned that the books I loved as a kid
might be less “cool” (I don’t even know the “in” term used today)
than when I originally read them. However, Edie, my library media
specialist friend from HFM BOCES, assured me that many of my
favorites are still popular.

Beyond creating the list and offering some subtle suggestions, we
let the children choose the books.

We are big fans of classic literature, so the list leans a bit
that way. That doesn’t mean that the stories are boring. They are
classics after all. It does mean that certain titles may feature
language that is a bit more formal (less slang and contemporary
jargon) than others.

We try to include different genres in the list, so the kids get to
choose from biographies, historical fiction, poetry,
mystery/adventure, fantasy/science fiction and non-fiction.

Our summer reading choices (approximate grade range: 4-8)

Here is our list for this year, significantly edited from the long
list of possible high-quality choices. We found almost all of
these at our local library. Some are more challenging than others,
but that’s why we’ll read them together. A handful of titles that
my children read in the past year have been included. They voted
for these titles to be added back in so other kids their age would
have a chance to choose and enjoy them.

A Horse and His Boy (a favorite from The Chronicles of Narnia
series) by C.S. Lewis
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (First of series)
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Christy by Catherine Marshall
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat that Touched the World by Vicki
The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig
Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit
Football Genius by Tim Green
From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson (biography)
The Hessian by Howard Fast
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (And then, hopefully, The Lord of the
Rings trilogy)
Island Of Hope: The Story of Ellis Island and the Journey to
America by Martin Sandler
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (One of my favorites as a boy)
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
Leonardo’s Shadow by Christopher Grey
The Lightning Thief (A Percy Jackson adventure) by Rick Riordan
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (nine book
series — a family favorite)
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America by Sharon
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Sounder by William Armstrong
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (The
illustrated version of this poem is a frequently reread family
The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit
This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest
Lesson by Mitch Albom
When the Tripods Came by John Christopher
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Woodsong by Gary Paulsen

A note about Shakespeare:
Some people might cringe to see a Shakespeare play on a list of
summer reading choices, no matter what age group the list
addressed. Our family tackles one play each summer, reading from
simplified versions, either The Children’s Shakespeare by Edith
Nesbit or Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb. These condensed,
prose versions of some of Shakespeare’s greatest works are ideal
introductions for the kids.

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