Just For Fun

9 Children’s Book Authors on the Joys of Summer Reading

by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Photo credit: MoMo Productions, Photonica Collection/ Getty Images

The words “summer reading” are like the words “ice cream and cake” for me — as soon as I hear them, I get a thrill (and it’s even better if I hear them in the same sentence!). In my family, we nurture our summer reading habit with frequent trips to the library and leisurely bookshop browsing, but we’ve found that the best reading recommendations oftentimes come from authors themselves!

I asked some authors to share their best tips, titles, and advice on how to make summer reading special; here’s what they had to say:

“The best summer reading is all about choice. Kids who are allowed to gorge on the books they love in the summer months (and all year long!) become stronger readers. Families can encourage this with frequent trips to the library to pick up new series titles and by creating a special summer reading spot — a swing on the porch or hammock in the yard — for young readers.”
Kate Messner, author of the Ranger in Time series

“This summer, make D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) a part of each day. You can carve out a set time or make it a surprise. When you yell those four magic words — ‘Drop everything and read!’ — that means no TV, no cell phones, no computers. Everyone finds a cozy space and great book to explore together or on their own.”
Kelly Starling Lyons, author of One More Dino on the Floor

“Take a literary look at the ultimate summer pastime: baseball. Books I read with my now-adult son still resonate in our daily lives — Jonah Winter’s Fair Ball! 14 Great Stars from Baseball’s Negro Leagues and Peter Golenbock’s Teammates, illustrated by Paul Bacon. And there are so many great baseball picture books that come out every year. You wouldn’t go wrong with any books by Matt Tavares. The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, written by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Jez Tuya, tells the little-known story of hand signals within the game. And the You Never Heard of … ?! books featuring Casey Stengel, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Mays, by the writer who first interested me in the form, Jonah Winter, are fantastic.”
–Audrey Vernick, author of The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton

“Vivien Thomas studied broken hearts so doctors could repair them. Plan a family ‘heart trip’ to your local library; you can read books about the heart and then encourage your young readers to write a poem about hearts and healthy living.”
–Gwendolyn Hooks, author of Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas

“One piece of advice I’d give to parents and teachers comes out of what I hear my seventh grade students tell me every year: We love reading, but sometimes school makes reading boring. And I couldn’t agree more! If we are mindful of what we ask kids to do with books, we can salvage great enthusiasm for reading, and not kill it. So, no worries about knowing every single vocab word in the book, no worksheets, no forced reading time, no adult choice of books. Give kids LOTS of options for books — spread out piles of books at the library, and let them choose. Read the opening pages aloud with them. Laugh with them. Get giddy with it. Cry with them. To paraphrase poet Mary Oliver, let kids love what they love. No coercion, just exposure and excitement when it comes to reading.”
Luke Reynolds, author of Surviving Middle School: Navigating the Halls, Riding the Social Roller Coaster, and Unmasking the Real You

“Encourage your child to read aloud this summer — perhaps to a younger brother or sister or even a pet. Read-alouds create wonderful shared learning experiences. Make reading aloud as a family part of your summer routine. To enhance the experience, make it theatrical. Use props and costumes. Maybe even make short video clips.”
Phil Bildner, author of A Whole New Ballgame, the first book in his Rip and Red middle grade series

“My book Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day is about diversity, community, and summer fun. One of my favorite ideas inspired by the story is that of implementing a neighborhood block party or celebration that brings the community together. I also treasure my family’s tradition of making frozen cups each summer (i.e. Kool-Aid frozen in Dixie cups).”
Tameka Fryer Brown, author of Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day

“My tip for summer reading is for the family planning a summer vacation. Read books that take place in the area you’re visiting so your kids can live the story. For instance, if you’re planning a trip to the San Francisco Bay area, read One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, set in late-1960s Oakland, California, where three sisters meet the mother who abandoned them and attend a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Or if you’re taking a Caribbean vacation, check out The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste, a spine-tingling tale rooted in Caribbean folklore.”
Karen Sandler, author of Tankborn

“There’s one reading tip I believe in, more than any other, and though it sounds silly and simple and obvious, a lot of parents have a ‘lightbulb moment’ when I say it out loud. It’s this: Read in FRONT of your kids. In this world of streaming video and ongoing email, I think it can be hard for us to realize what our own habits look like to kids. Our children see us online all day, every day. So, when we tell them to ‘go read a book,’ it’s not always something we’re actually modeling for them. And reading TO them is great, but it’s different. Sprawling on the floor with a book of your own is the best way I know to teach kids to love reading. ‘Family reading time’ is one of my favorite parts of the day. Curling up with my kids, falling into a book myself, is the most pleasurable kind of parenting.”
Laurel Snyder, author of Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

 

How do you encourage summer reading in your family? Let us know in the comments section below.

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