While kids may want to be out enjoying summer vacation playing out in the sun, eventually they’ll have to come indoors. And what better way to spend downtime or drive time on a summer road trip than delving into a book? Plus, summer reading can prevent summer brain drain by keeping kids engaged in learning. We’ve compiled the best books to put on your kids’ summer reading list, divided by age group. From the most voracious readers to the most reluctant, there’s page-turners out there for every age and interest.
Pre-K and Kindergarten
Bright and inviting for the learning-to-read crowd, the Curious George series features bold colors and a charming cast of characters, perfect for helping kids develop a lifelong love of reading.
It’s amazing how much changes in the big city after a snowfall! This Caldecott award winner takes children on a journey through exploring the world in a different light.
A full cast of outrageous characters and nonsensical words make the Dr. Seuss books a useful learning-to-read tool; watching adults struggle to sound out Seussisms helps children develop confidence in their own reading abilities.
Lilting rhythms and bold styles bring this Ghana folk tale to life. Full of vivid imagery, Anansi the Spider is a story about family, history, and creativity that all children can enjoy.
Stories about famous American scientists and mathematicians may help kids stay interested in the STEM fields longer, and Katherine Johnson’s contributions to the Apollo program can’t be overstated.
This boxed set of the first four Amelia Bedelia books explores the complexities of language in fun and interesting ways that are sure to get kids curious. Kids will laugh and learn along with Amelia, full of hilarious misunderstood metaphors, synonyms, and other tricky aspects of communication.
A classic that parents and grandparents will love re-reading, The Boxcar Children has been a charming staple for early elementary classrooms for decades. Children learn independence, responsibility, and cooperation through these adventurous tales, though some elements of the stories are now very dated.
A jumping-off point for discussing history and science, the Magic Tree House books take children on fantastical journeys to faraway places and amazing times, perfect for early readers learning to work their way through chapter books.
The first book in a series, The Borrowers, is sure to get your children’s imaginations going. Full of British axioms about making do with what’s available and learning to respect people who are different than you, it’s a warm and cozy tale about cooperation and respect.
Dahl’s fantastic stories intrigue young children with vivid characters and dynamic adventures, while older children can grasp more of the meaning behind classics like James and the Giant Peach.
Beloved by generations of readers, Beverly Cleary’s books are a great way to entice reluctant readers into finishing “just one more” chapter book. This four-book set is full of fun stories about making messes, mistakes, and friends.
Laura Ingall’s biographical series is a fun way to get children interested in history. We follow along in their covered wagon as the pioneers travel west through Wisconsin, Kansas, and eventually the Dakotas.
A children’s classic for over a century, the story of Anne of Green Gables still resonates with families today. It’s a great choice for children facing a move or when changing schools, as it deals heavily with making new friends, overcoming first impressions, and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of difficulty.
Gary Paulsen’s stories about wilderness survival and the deep drive to live in harmony with nature draws parallels to a modern Jack London, and many of his books have won the Newberry award. Dogsong is aimed a little younger than his Hatchet series, though plenty of teens and adults still love and re-read this classic.
This is the pick for fans of mythology, history, or fantasy — or anyone who just loves a fun adventure series. Rick Riordan’s Olympians bring mythological heroes of old to a young audience in fun, easy-to-follow narratives.
A fictionalized first-person account of the Yellow Fever epidemic that swept through Philadelphia, Fever is a powerful coming-of-age story, both for heroine Mattie and for a young nation gripped by plague.
Forced to flee domestic violence in an arranged marriage, Julie of the Wolves deals with one young girl’s struggle to survive in one of the harshest environments on earth. By digging deep into the lessons her father instilled in her, Julie survives and thrives in this Newberry award winner.
In a genre-defining exploration of rural life and the struggle to survive, subsistence farmers fight predators, poverty, and even a hurricane, while trying to provide a better life for their young son Jody. He struggles to reconcile the harsh realities of their life with his love of his pet fawn.
Based on a true story, the Misty series of books draw readers into this classic novel about nature, family, and the possibility of achieving your dreams. Bask in the warm Virginia summer sun that permeates this classic story about the wild ponies of Assateague and their most famous domestic descendant, Misty.
Follow the last days of the Nez Perce tribe in this powerfully evocative story of the strength to persevere in the face of overwhelming loss and sorrow. At less than 150 pages, it’s short enough for an elementary student to read. Still, the subject matter — genocide, interment, and graphic violence — may make it better suited to an older age group.
An immersive tale about overcoming obstacles and struggling to survive, this rich exploration of the Yukon remains one of London’s most powerful works, and the story’s enduring popularity clearly shows that a love of the wilderness is still deeply embedded in American cultural consciousness.
Go back to where it all started with Tolkien’s The Hobbit. With tons of content left unexplored by movies, it remains an engaging and enjoyable fantasy that teens and adults love.
The first in a series, T. H. White’s retelling of classic Arthurian legends with an emphasis on the more magical and fantastical elements, these legends of wyverns, fairies, wizards, and more make for instant favorites that are endlessly re-readable.
A powerful story about strength in the face of tragedy, O’Dell’s evocative retelling of the story of the last survivor of the Nicoleño tribe and the incredible adversity she faced alone on an island for over a decade will stay with the reader long after the last page.