Summer is a time for fun, for laughs, but also a surprisingly good time to learn. While it’s important for kids to take a break from school, there’s still a space to keep their minds sharp and engaged while they run around in the sun. One of the best ways to keep kids on their toes is by getting them to read, so why not make a reading group? Sounds easier said than done. Still, here are some top recommendations.
For little readers [4-9 years old]: ‘Amelia Bedelia’ by Peggy Parish
Not every reader is ready to move on to chapter books, but for those looking to graduate from picture books, Amelia Bedelia has you covered… sort of. See, Amelia’s problem is that she listens to instructions but doesn’t interpret them how you’d think. Whether that means drawing the curtains in a sketchbook or dressing the chicken in overalls, Amelia Bedelia does her best in very unexpected ways. Always good for a lot of laughs, it’s guaranteed to have any kid smiling ear from ear.
For daring adventurers [9-12 years old]: ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’ by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson’s struggles as a twelve-year-old trying to find his way in the world are immediately relatable, although maybe his divine parenthood is not. Still, this book is chock filled with swordplay, monsters and mythology tidbits galore. A perennial favorite with young boys eleven and up, it’s the hero’s journey made immediately accessible. The book also demonstrates that having ADHD or dyslexia doesn’t stop you from anything, even being a hero.
For the princesses in your lives [9-13 years old]: ‘Princess Academy’ by Shannon Hale
‘Princess Academy’ may be about a school for princess hopefuls, but don’t let that fool you. The girls here aren’t waiting to be rescued, especially not when they’re all competing for the right to be the prince’s bride. Even so, it’s a tale of friendship, courage, and the power that girls everywhere have when they believe in themselves. Even better, it shows how crucial education is in improving the lives of not only the girls but also the people around them, a vitally important lesson for today’s girls.
For reluctant readers [7-12 years old]: ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1,’ by Jeff Kinney
Don’t let that innocent looking stick figure on the front fool you: Greg Heffley is a terribly naughty kid. This adorably illustrated book looks at his average, everyday life and all the crazy stuff that happens in an average life. Now a whole series of books, the first has managed to get many kids all over the worlds engaged in the Greg Heffley “saga.” It definitely works as a good stepping stone towards longer and more complex chapter books.
For kids who wanna go old-school [8-13 years old]: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum
If there’s one classic every kid should read, I firmly believe that it has to be ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Dorothy’s journey through the Land of Oz is one of the most charming ever written for children, and Baum truly makes us believe in this new world he describes to us. It’s a book for every child who’s wanted to be whisked away to a place full of magic but doesn’t hesitate to remind us that there’s no place like home.
Finally, here are my top five tips to keep your reading group running smoothly.
Choose engaging, age-appropriate books by asking the kids what they like. While you might want to have the kids appreciate the classics, if it doesn’t engage them then they’re going to tune out.
Let the kids lead the discussion when appropriate. You’d be surprised what kind of keen observations kids have, or what details they’ll bring to your attention.
Try bringing activities into the mix. Reading should be the primary focus in a reading group, but doing activities can help young readers see books from a different perspective.
Don’t forget snacks and drinks. Having snacks and drinks keeps the kids energized and happy, and it keeps the atmosphere light enough for back and forth discussion.
Remember that reading is fun. The important thing is to impress upon young readers that reading isn’t supposed to be boring or intimidating, it’s supposed to open the doorway to new worlds and ideas.