by Sheila Thoburn
Towards the end of each school year many parents ask what their children should work on over the summer break. More specifically some ask for a suggested reading list. Below you will find some helpful ideas by grade level. But first, what are the benefits of summer reading, and how should it be done?
Reasons Students Should Read Over the Summer
Four specific benefits of reading are 1) improving comprehension, 2) building communication skills, 3) improving grammar and 4) building character. If someone struggles with a skill, the best way to improve the skill is to practice it. Thus if your student struggles with comprehension or communication, reading will help with both of these. At the same time, reading improves grammar. As one reads, the sentences repeatedly expose him to the syntax of the English language. Finally the characters in books and the situations encountered in stories will help build a reader's own character. Or weaken his morals.
Books are teachers. Look carefully at the books your child reads. What kind of language is used? What do the characters act like? Who is the hero of the story? Books will teach your child vocabulary and speech patterns as well as morals, so choose wisely!
Summer Reading How To's and Tips
In addition to selecting books based on eloquent language and values, select books that are at or below a student's current reading level. Something difficult may frustrate a child; he will see it as work rather than recreation.
Once your have your selected books, it is time to read. If your child is not yet reading, you can read to him providing the same benefits as independent reading. Next, narrate. Once the story has been read, ask your child to tell you what the story was about. Who are the characters? What did they do? Why? How did it end? Narration will help with comprehension as a child has to not only think about what happened, but he has to choose the words to explain it aloud.
After the narration has been given, delve into a discussion. Asking questions will help your child think on a deeper level and begin to instill or solidify values in his mind. If you aren't sure what questions to ask or how to have a discussion, this page has terrific step-by-step suggestions.
If your child seems to struggle with the discussion questions or comprehension in general, consider having him work through a Reading Detective book. This series is excellent practice for comprehension and reasoning skills. Answers must be evidence based. This keeps a student from simply guessing, quickly being done and not thinking through his decisions.
Suggested Reading by Grade Level & Trusted Reading Lists
If your child is not yet reading, take time to read to him throughout the summer. Perhaps have two copies of a book so that he can follow along as you read, seeing AND hearing the words and sentence structure. Good choices for read alouds are picture books with beautiful illustrations (Jan Brett and Paul Zelinsky) or whimsical pictures (such as Tommy dePaola or Virginia Lee Burton). Rhyming books are also great options for emergent readers; books by Iza Trapani and Margaret Wise Brown (she uses many approximate rhymes) are fun and ear catching.
For those who are able to read and for proficient readers, below you will find some suggestions. These are books that you may not be as readily familiar with. And at the end of the lists are a couple of links to reading lists with classics that you may have forgotten.
RISING FIRST AND SECOND GRADE LEVEL
Boxcar Children Series (Only books 1-19 were written by Gertrude Chandler Warner)
RISING THIRD AND FOURTH GRADE LEVEL
Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
RISING FIFTH AND SIXTH GRADE LEVEL
JUNIOR HIGH LEVEL BOOKS
SENIOR HIGH LEVEL BOOKS
OTHER TRUSTED READING LISTS
The website, As We Walk Along the Road, has a great list of literature AND activity suggestions by grade level. Most are suggestions fitted for younger students.
The Institute for Excellence in Writing is a trusted publisher which we use many materials from. Here is their recommended reading list.
Making Summer Reading Recreational
1. Make it a family activity. Ask a grandparent or other relative to read with your child over Zoom, Google Meet or a similar platform.
2. Watch a movie! But first read the book. Then schedule a night to watch a movie adaption. This is especially fun for older students. Films such as Hitchcock's Rebecca or the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are based on printed works. Young children may enjoy watching a cartoon adaption of Virginia Lee Burton's classic, The Little House, and discussing the differences.
3. Entice with comfort. Make a cozy reading nook in the house or outside. Children love building forts and teens often prefer to stay in their bedrooms. Add a few special pillows, a book light, and of course, a book to create a special reading spot. Add snacks so there are no excuses to stop reading.
4. Ask your child what he would enjoy reading. What interests does he have? What reading captured his attention during the school year? What is one of his favorite movies? Is it based on a book?
5. Emergent readers may be drawn into reading if you allow them to color as you read. Dover has many coloring books that are inspired by classic children's stories.
Finally, stop by school on Tuesdays this summer to peruse some of the suggestions given here. We plan to be open Tuesdyas. We have samples of lots of these books. You can see if a book is something your child may enjoy before you commit to buying or borrowing a copy yourself.
Do you have any favorite books you remember reading when you were younger? Share in the comments below to inspire more summer reading!