Take your young child on a summer reading adventure

The best summer reads for elementary-school age kids, according to local experts



For a lot of school-age children, the phrase “summer reading” usually invokes long exasperated sighs, exaggerated groans and expressing the desire to do anything else during their school break. But summer is the perfect time of year to lay a foundation that will carry your child through their many years of schooling.

Younger elementary-age children may not be required to complete a summer reading list like students in the upper grades, but building a relationship with books should start early.

Don’t know where to start? Don’t get overwhelmed by where to begin your child’s summer reading excursion. We talked to local experts who can point you in the right direction.

For elementary-age youngsters, only one author came to mind for Cheryl Andrews, a first-grade teacher at Pelham Elementary School, who was recently named New Hampshire’s 2017 Teacher of the Year by the VFW New Hampshire Auxiliary.

“Anything by Marty Kelley. His humor always has the kids laughing and keeps them engaged with its fun illustrations.”

Marty Kelley, who lives right here in New Hampshire, has authored numerous illustrated children’s books, but the ones that get kids laughing are “The Messiest Desk,” “The Rules,” and one particular favorite, “Summer Stinks,” an alphabetical foray into the many things about summer that maybe aren’t so fun.

With the rhyming cadence and all-around silliness of the illustrations, kids have no trouble becoming absorbed into Kelley’s youthful creations. Of course, books such as these are best when read aloud by parents or other family members. Through the entertaining use of various voices, facial expressions, hand gestures and the like, children being read to can better connect to the story at hand when their imagination is ignited.

When the time comes to move on to longer stories with fewer illustrations, the easiest way to transition your child to chapter books is through a book series. Book series play a major role in developing your child’s relationship with their own imagination. Nurturing a child’s imagination does not take much effort, but it’s important to continue doing so as they progress in their reading development. Even if you have a child that is picky about what books they want to read, it’s simple to find a series they enjoy and will want to stick with.

Children’s services librarian at the Pelham Public Library Betsy Vecchi said that “familiarity with the characters and storyline are definitely a huge part of it. Reading books in a series, which are familiar and predictable, helps kids become more independent readers.”

One such series that she strongly recommends to young readers is the “Dragon Masters” series by Tracey West. Full of all things dragons, knights and magic, this series is a great doorway into unleashing your child’s imagination into a fantasy realm.

 If knights in shining armor aren’t your child’s forte, another recommendation would be the “Phoebe and Her Unicorn” series, by Dana Simpson. A little more humorous and modern, this comic strip-styled series is ideal for children who struggle with friendship and venture for something a little different than your average chapter book.

A suggestion that both third-grade teacher Deborah Bourque of the Pelham School District and the Head of Youth Services at the Manchester City Library Karyn Isleb agree upon is the “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis.

This series is ideal for young readers with a love for history. These books are thrilling tales from some of history’s worst disasters told from the perspective of a young boy or girl who survived them. While some of these stories are tragic in nature, it awakens an appreciation for real-world events from a different viewpoint than that of their history lessons in school.

 Another story that aims to do something similar is the “Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pope Osbourne. With a total of 55 books, this series is a popular refuge for readers into the worlds of yesteryear. Through these books, your child, along with characters Jack and Annie, are transported to different time periods all through the magic of reading. From traveling back to the age of dinosaurs to meeting Merlin the Magician and some pirates along the way, this series is as timeless as it is entertaining.

Remember, parents: developing a love of reading all starts with you. Reading to your child before bed or creating summer traditions are ways in which you can keep their love of reading continuous all year long.

As Isleb said, “During the summer, it is so important to keep them reading. Summer is the time when most kids stop reading, and when they begin school in the fall, most lost some of their reading skills, which puts them behind.”

Take the time this summer to create traditions of your own: go to the park for a picnic and read “The Giving Tree” while sitting beneath a big pine tree; read “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” while camping out beneath the stars; or huddle beneath the blankets with a flashlight to incite quests for the scariest ghost story ever told.

Building traditions such as these, and following through year after year, will not only build that foundation for an avid reader, but will also broaden your child’s imaginative horizons. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what they’re reading, as long as they’re taking the time to do so. After all, a strong reader is one whose imagination is limitless, and the journey begins on page one. 

Amanda Andrews, an avid reader and admirer of the written word, is a freelance copyeditor and an event coordinator at McLean Communications. You can find her somewhere in the woods of New Hampshire wandering between the pages of a good book. She can be reached at aandrews@mcleancommunications.com.

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