The countdown to summer is officially on. While I firmly believe that kids need and deserve a long break free of over-scheduled days and the pressures of school, I’m also a stickler about summer reading goals. Summer reading has been proven to improve both literacy and academic skills when kids return to school, but more important to me is fostering a life-long love of reading by encouraging kids to read for pleasure.
I recently came across this fantastic list of the 100 Best Children’s Chapter Books of All Time. It has an excellent mix of classic and contemporary books, many of which I read as a kid. The boys and and I read the reviews together and chose ten books to add to our home library. However, there were a few favorites that didn’t make the Top 100 cut, which gave me the idea of posting our own “summer reading list for adventurous boys.” (Girls might love these books too, but I don’t have any of those sweet little creatures, so I can’t be sure.) My boys are ages 7 and 9 and after finishing the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series, we went into a kind-of slump looking for new series that would grab their attention. After a few misfires, here are the winners. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE add your kid’s favorites in the comments section!
1. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling. If you haven’t read them, start here. This series launched my boys into chapter books, and had the added incentive of a movie corresponding to each book in the series, which we watched as soon as we finished the book. It’s so well-written and engaging. I read them right along with the boys.
2. Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan. Percy and his demigod friends take readers into the world of Greek mythology. In the first book, The Lightning Thief, Percy learns that his father is Poseidon, God of the Sea, and finds himself on a quest to prevent a catastrophic war among the gods. There are seven excellent books in this series– enough to keep kids reading all summer.
3. Hatchet, Gary Paulsen. Brian Robeson is a thirteen year-old son of divorced parents. As he travels on a bush plane to visit his father in northern Canada for the summer, the pilot suffers a heart attack and dies; Brian tries to land the plane, but ends up crash-landing into a lake in the forest, saving nothing but his hatchet.
4. The Inheritance Cycle, Christopher Paolini. First of all, these books were written by a 15 year old boy in between high school and college, and have now sold 33.5 million copies. How inspiring! The first book, Eragon, introduces a teenage boy, Eragon, and his dragon, Saphira, and their struggle to overthrow the evil king, Galbatorix.
5. Pushcart Wars, Jean Merrill. New York City’s pushcart peddlers declare war on trucks using pea-shooters, and the children of the city join in the fight. My 4th grader read this one in class and loved it! Based on his enthusiastic review, it’s on the summer reading list for my younger son.
6. The Underland Chronicles, Suzanne Collins. My 9-year old really wants to read the Hunger Games, but I feel the premise of the book isn’t appropriate for him yet. Thank god, Suzanne Collins also wrote a phenomenal series for younger readers! The Underland Chronicles tell the story of Gregor and his adventures in the Underland, where he encounters a world inhabited by warring rats and cockroaches. My good friend, Ali, who is a mom and teacher, turned us onto this series after she and her ten year-old son both tore through them, and she was spot on.
7. Ranger’s Apprentice, John Flanagan. There are 11 books in this series, so if the kids like them, you’ll have lots of material to look forward to. The series follows the adventures of Will, an orphan who is taken as an apprentice Ranger, as he strives to keep the Kingdom of Araluen safe from invaders, traitors, and threats.
8. Alex Rider, Anthony Horowitz. 14 year-old Alex Rider is a spy for the British Government. He is equipped with all sorts of special gadgets (including a game boy that emits smoke bombs) as he embarks on dangerous missions– a teenage James Bond.
9. The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read this story out loud to the boys about a year ago, and the writing is definitely complex. But, the boys LOVED following the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and I had the distinct pleasure of having them realize that the book was “way better” than the movie! This is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and tells the story of how Bilbo originally finds the ring during his quest to defeat Smaug the Dragon.
10. The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. This series chronicles the adventures of the Grace children, twins Simon and Jared and their older sister Mallory, after they move into the decrepit Spiderwick Estate and discover a world of faeries.
11. Inkheart, Cornelia Funke. Inkheart is the first book in the Inkworld Trilogy in which a young girl named Meggie brings book characters to life. Meggie fights Capricorn to save her father, Mo, who is trapped inside a book.
12. The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis. My kids alternated between reading the Narnia series and listening to it on tape (excellent listening for the whole family on a long road trip). It’s such a classic, and for good reason. This was another series I didn’t mind reading right along with the boys.
I would love your recommendations– please share them! Happy reading!