Beat the “I’m Bored” Blues: A Summer Book List for Young Readers
What mom hasn’t heard, “I’m bored… what is there to do?” on long, hot summer days?
Sending my kids to crash on a couch, in the shade of a tree, or out to the backyard fort with a good book in hand is one of my top summer fun suggestions whenever I hear those words.
Over the past two years, my oldest daughter has become an increasingly voracious reader. I’ve struggled at first with knowing how to find books that are suitable for her to read. Finding books that were easy enough as she first began reading, and more recently ones that are challenging enough (but not too mature). She reads at about a Grade 6-7 level at seven years old, which is wonderful, but also presents some challenges. Finding wholesome books that promote strong family relationships and Christian values is also a priority, but not always easy to find when you scan the junior books at the library.
Sharing Some of Our Book Choices
Below you’ll find a list of books that she has read and thoroughly enjoyed over the past year or two as her reading ability took off. I would say that some of them are more like a true Grade 2-3 reading level, while others range up into the Grade 4-7 levels.
(And for moms of really little ones… scroll down to the bottom, as I’ve included a couple resources for younger books and for read alouds.)
I’ve indicated whether a book in on the easier or more difficult end by simply labelling it REALLY EASY, EASY, A LITTLE HARDER or HARD, based mostly upon my daughter’s comparisons of them.
That’s simplistic, I know, but books are a subjective thing. I’ve purchased books that were supposed to be at her reading level that had vocabulary which baffled and frustrated her or content that wasn’t interesting at her age, and also given her books that were supposedly “much too hard for her” that she ate up with a spoon. Which books are exactly right for your child? Unfortunately, it all depends and there is a level of trial and error involved.
That said, I have been slowly weeding through all the twaddle out there (useless, fluffy books not worth our time) and then everything else to find a more suitable selection. Below the specific book suggestions are some resources for finding more quality books.
Books for Kids to Read Themselves
** Abbie’s favorites
** Stuart Little – Stuart is a very, very small mouse born into a family of humans, the Littles. This is a hilarious story of the antics of being so little in such a big world. It is engagingly written by E.B. White, who also wrote Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan.
** Secret of the Catacombs– This is the first of what will likely become a series of young children’s Christian mystery stories. Although it was a bit too easy for Abbie now (she read it just a month ago, but it probably would have been better for her last year), she loved it and told me all about the two children who had to go back in time to rescue two horses for Noah’s Ark. It’s nice to find a mystery book with a Christian perspective.
** Busy Times and More Busy Times– These are actually the Gr. 2 readers from Pathway Readers, a homeschool curriculum provider. I picked one up at a used curriculum sale and she loved it, so when we found the second one a couple months ago, we snatched it up as well. They’re very wholesome.
Baby Island – A story about two young girls who find themselves taking care of a handful of babies after the large ship that they are travelling on sinks one night.
** Boxcar Children– These are fun and light-hearted mysteries about the adventures of 4 siblings. There are actually over 100 books in the series.
Charlotte’s Web – The classic that we’ve probably all read when we ourselves were children, the unlikely tale of a pig who is befriended by a very clever spider. If your kids read this, or you read it aloud, be sure to treat yourselves to a family night with the new Charlotte’s Web film adaptation starring Dakota Fanning.
A LITTLE HARDER
Mr. Popper’s Penguins– You may have seen the Jim Carrey movie by this name, but the book is actually an old classic, written in 1938. It’s a very fun and engaging tale.
** Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I remember loving this when I was a child, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I brought it home from the library for Abbie and the very first night, she kept stalling because she simply couldn’t “bear to go to bed until I know for sure that Charlie gets a golden ticket!!!” Other Roald Dahl books are also fantastic, including classics like James and the Giant Peach.
** Little House on the Prairie series – A truly classic series, and one of my daughter’s favorites. You might want to focus on stories like Little House in the Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, and leave The Long Winter for another time. Then again, perhaps reading about swirling blizzards on a sweltering August day is somewhat akin to eating ice cream?
Our Canadian Girl – This is a series of historical-fiction books intended for young elementary-aged girls, based on Canada’s history. There are quite a number of them, and they deal with various cultures (Native Canadians, French, Eastern European immigrants, etc.) and tell a story of a girl that might have lived during that period of our history. There is a similar series for Americans called American Girl (we’ve read only one in this series, Felicity, which we enjoyed).
The Incredible Journey – Two dogs and one cat make an incredible, harrowing journey through the Canadian wilderness back to the family they love. This is a beautiful story. Abbie found it slightly hard to get into, but enjoyed it once she pushed through the beginning.
** The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – Who hasn’t read and loved this timeless classic by C.S. Lewis? Made even more popular by the beautiful movies that have come out in recent years, this is an amazing story, full of Christian allegory. I highly recommend the entire Chronicles of Narnia series, although we have found a few of the books to be slightly scary to younger children (particularly the Magician’s Nephew, Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle).
Books to Read Aloud to Your Kids
These 4 books could also be read by a young reader, and would fall into the A LITTLE HARDER or HARD categories.
Indian in the Cupboard – I haven’t read this one personally, but it was one of my husband’s favorites when he was a young, homeschooled boy. He has just begun reading it to our kids and he was SO excited when I brought it home from the library.
** Caddie Woodlawn – I’m currently finishing this up as a special evening read-aloud with our 7 year old (after the little ones go to bed). It’s in a similar vein to Little House on the Prairie, written around the same time period, and also about the precocious, daring, loveable, tom-boy daughter of a large pioneering family. My younger ones (5 and almost 3) find this a little harder to follow than the Little House on the Prairie series when we read those aloud.
** Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – Our entire family LOVED this book, and in fact sometimes my husband would put off going back to work after lunch because we were all so enthralled by it. A delightfully unique story about some amazing rats, and a family of mice.
** Five Little Peppers and How They Grew – Precious. Beautiful. Touching. Funny. This has probably been our favorite read aloud of the past year or two. This is the story of 5 children and their hard-working mother (who is a widow). They have so little materially, and yet they are the richest family in the world for their joyful relationships with one another. You must read this to your kids! There are several more books that come after this one and they are on our must-read list.
Where to Find More Great Book Suggestions
Veritas Press– This classical-education homeschool curriculum provider carries an excellent selection of age-appropriate, quality books. I enjoyed looking through their lists for inspiration. Here are links to their literature resources- Gr. 1, Gr. 2, Gr. 3, and Gr. 4.
Ambleside Online– A Charlotte-Mason styled homeschool approach, their recommended literature lists are also helpful- Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, Year 3.5 (a transitional, in-between level), Year 4.
Read for the Heart: Books for the Wholehearted Child – Written by Sarah Clarkson, the oldest daughter of Sally Clarkson, this book is a valuable guide to finding wholesome, classic, intelligent books that will encourage a love of literature and learning in your children. She shares brief but very helpful book descriptions, and classifies the books according to timeless classics, modern favorites, picture books, read alouds, etc.
Free Kindle books– We bought a Kindle last year and it has been one of our best purchases. One of the huge perks of a Kindle is that all of the classics (those books that are now under Public Domain), like Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and so many more are completely FREE to download. Search for Children’s Kindle books on Amazon and sort by Prices: Low to High you can see the ones that are free. You can also sort by age/reading level.
Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read Alouds– From Crystal at Money Saving Mom. This 4-part series includes some excellent choices for reading aloud to younger children.
What About the Little Ones?
For those not reading independently, check out 50 Books to Enjoy With Kids.
This inexpensive ebook offers 50 suggestions of truly classic, well-written and engaging books for children aged 2-8 (and activities to accompnay them). We have personally read about half of the books included, and I can vouch that these are great suggestions! The book comes from Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom, a homescooling mom of 6.
I think that it is also important to keep reading aload to kids even after they can read for themselves. Great list. Libraray mornings here always mean for a quiet afternoon!
Tara @ Simply Made Home
Thank you… especially for the recommendation about The Secret of the Catacombs. My girl would LOVE that, sounds like, so I’m going to pick that one up today!
We jsut started doing a family read aloud. I even sent books with the girls when they went to Cleveland yesterday. I think The Boxcar Children is next on our family read aloud list. But I haven’t decided what my daughter will read next. I think she likes to be prompted (unless it’s Nancy Drew)!
When my daughters were reading Nancy Drew (1990’s) I discovered that newer titles (1970’s and later) were much more about dating and were less wholesome than the earlier titles.
This blog entry: http://thinkingkids.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/true-heroes-teaching-our-kids-about-that-great-cloud-of-witnesses/ has some terrific resources for books — some are biographies for kids (which I remember eating up when I was that age) and some are historically based fiction. 🙂
What a great list!! I just got a Kindle for Mother’s Day & I’m excited to check out the freebies you mentioned!
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is fabulous. I still have my paperback copy that I got from book orders when I was in 4th grade myself!! Please do not confuse this book with the mediocre movie, “The Secret of NIMH” that was released a while back. That movie was based very loosely on this book, but most of the key points of he book were changed for the movie, making it a very different story. Read the book. As always, the book is so much better.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories – A fabulous book! I can’t wait to read it to my children. Don’t be put off by the author. It is truly a work of literature and completely appropriate for children.
Great list! Oooh, can we get a list for adult readers? 😀
We love books that we can use to help our children develop good character. Some examples are The Whipping Boy, Princess and the Goblin, and Where the Red Fern Grows. We’ve also read in the abridged editions of The Secret Garden, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, and Pollyanna.
Diane and I were just talking yesterday about how to find good
children’s books. Thanks for the great resources! Thinking of you guys!
This is truly a wonderful list for children and parents to grab and enjoy! I’ve read some of these myself as a child. I agree with Holly, could we get some adult book suggestions? I’ve been very busy these days but I can sneak in a little read before bedtime. =)
Great post…can’t wait to share my childhood favorites when my daughter is older.
Have you read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Di Camillo? The story of a china rabbit who is lost by a little girl, and all the people he meets on his way home to her. It is a beautiful story about love and loss and challenge. My third graders loved this as a read aloud, but it is also wonderful for an independent reader.
There’s a book called Miracles (Miracle?) on Maple Hill that I loved as a child. I remember it was about a family who moved to a maple syrup farm and it described their new life there, but other than that, I don’t remember a whole lot. I don’t think there was anything objectionable! 🙂 I also enjoyed some BJUPress books–Arby Jenkins, Dust of the Earth, and Wings of Gold in particular (those last two might be more of an early high school level). Thanks for these suggestions! Can’t wait till my little guy is old enough to be read to and understand it 🙂
my 7 year old has turned into an insatiable reader this summer. i’m thankful, but i agree. it’s sometimes a challenge to find books that (1) he enjoys, (2) are reading level appropriate, and (3) are age appropriate. he just finished reading the first borrowers book and loved it, so i’m covered for at least the rest of the week. at the rate he’s going, he’ll devour those and all the narnia books before school starts.
our private school librarian helps maintain a great list by grade level. every book on the list has been read by the recommending librarian and checked for appropriate content. http://www.haisln.org/recommendedreadinglists.html
Don’t forget Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys! I’m still reading Nancy Drew at 26. There are even great computer games that are based on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys now. They’re super educational. The player gets to learn about history, different countries and cultures, and there are tricky puzzles to work the mind (even those of adults!).
My seven year old son and I just finished reading “Frindle” by Andrew Clements. What a great read about the power of words. I teared up at the end… I did have to explain a few things because the boy is in 5th grade (with class periods) and I don’t think my son has seen an actual dictionary!
I’m excited to try The 5 Little Peppers with my crew. As a single mom of 4 kiddos, under 10, I’m thinking it will be a read we can all relate to:)
We are still in school – but relaxed! So we are still enjoying our Core F Eastern Hemisphere read alouds. We just finished “Shadow Spinner” and are close to finishing “Seven Daughters and Seven Sons.” These two books in particular have really provided perspective for my 11 year-old daughter, that girls in other countries are not valued by society and often are not blessed with the type of love and protection that she experiences. It’s been an eye-opener. We will be reading “The Hobbit” again, my son (18 years old) requested that! Then we will try reading aloud a Shakespeare play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the evenings. We’ll see!
Great suggestions! I think we’ve read just about all these. My son really enjoyed the first 19 of The Boxcar Children, which he read independently when he was six. Some other good suggestions: Trumpet of the Swan, A Little Princess, Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, My Father’s Dragon, and more Pathway books such as Climbing Higher, New Friends, More New Friends, etc.
I am new your blog but so thankful I stumbled upon it! What a great resource! This will be our first year homeschooling and I have been looking for a list of good read-aloud books, what perfect timing for me to have found your blog! Thanks so much for the suggestions, I’ll definitely be stopping back soon!
Welcome to the blog, Kate! 🙂
I have this same problem with my daughter- finding appropriate books maturity wise but not too easy. Most chapter books seem to be at the maturity level of a 9 year old. At age 6, she is reading and comprehending at about a grade 5 level, she started reading very young.
Here’s some books we’ve enjoyed:
-the first few books in the “grandma’s attic” series
-boxcar children books
-The Moody Family series by Sarah Maxwell (I also read these aloud, they are about a homeschooling family) “Spring with the moodys” “summer with the moodys” etc. there are 7 in the series…we LOVE these
-The Busy times and more busy times readers we enjoy them too, and have the grade 1 ones as well, they are very cheap even brand new and we also enjoy the comprehension workbooks but you could read them on their own instead
-books by Danae Dobson- more like long picture books or short stories but are good like “Forest Friends learn to share” and “the best of woof” etc.
-Beverly Lewis has some okay chapter books in a series- they are short chapter books. I say okay because I found them a bit dry and not really as outwardly Christian as I would like, but there is nothing bad in them that I’ve encountered, but I haven’t read them all.
-Christian Liberty press nature readers- the first one for grade 1 is a high reading level I would say more like grade 3 level at least. Non-fiction reading but well done
-Christian light readers- Mennonite based sort of like Pathway we haven’t read these yet but I’ve heard good things
-the Mandy books byt Gladys Leppard I know my sisters in law read these but they are best for a bit older like 9-11 from what I read of them, my 6 year old isn’t mature enough emotionally for those yet
-owls in the family by Farley Mowat we really enjoyed this as a read aloud
-the dear Canada series is another good one for a bit older (I’ve read most of them and because of some of the historical content like war etc I feel she is still a bit young)
My daughter thankfully likes to read things over and over because the choices are still fairly limited.
I would highly recommend most of all the Moody Family Series by Sarah Maxwell even my 3 1/2 year old loves sitting and listening to these and begs for another chapter. They make good family read alouds no matter who hears it.
I should have said- Grandma’s attic series is by Arleta Richardson
-the danae dobson books are I think out of print, but we found them online through a used book retailer.
-we also have enjoyed the children’s animal series (not sure what the series is called) by Janette Oke I think its a bit on the easier side
-I also was told to look into the readers used by other homeschool curriculums like Abeka or Bob Jones etc that we don’t personally use but might have some more ideas, if you need some. I will be checking this out soon
Oh yes, we love the Christian Liberty Nature Readers as well, and Abbie also really enjoyed the Grandma’s Attic book, too (I think she’s just read the first one).
Does your daughter like historical biographies? When I was that age, I loved reading about real people’s lives and comparing/contrasting to mine. I can recommend Eleanor Roosevelt: A life of Discovery by R. Freedman. She had such an incredible life’s journey, and as it spanned the first half of the 20th century, you could use it to touch upon the Great War, the Great Depression and WWII.
Project Gutenberg has tons of old classsics for free even for Kindle. http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page
This is a great site if you know what you want to read.
What about Hitty, the First Hundred Years by Rachel Fields anything by Robert Lawson, and books by G. A. Henty? Also great reads!
I’m trying to find wholesome older teen books for my son, 16 going on 25 when it comes to reading. I can’t read everthing before he does to check for inappropriate language or “scenes” anymore. I don’t allow it in our home why would I bring it in by books. I’ve read some juvenile library books that had about 3 explicit scenes between boy & girl, I was not happy to find. I’m thankful I found it before my son did. There is enough garbage being feed thru the eye & ear gates that can destroy pure minds and can destroy marriages. Can anyone help?