Growing Reader

Classroom Read-Alouds and
Activities to Inspire Screen-Free Summer Adventures

by Lindsay Barrett

Photo credit: Hero Images, Hero Collection/Getty Images

No matter where you stand in the debate about the right amount and type of screen-time for kids, you probably agree that a summer vacation full of unlimited TV and video games isn’t optimal. Many adults have nostalgic memories of meandering summer days spent in the company of neighborhood pals, cousins, or siblings and want the kids in their lives to have the same opportunities for active imagination, exploration, and play.

Here are nine books to read aloud in the final weeks of school to spark ideas for simple, tech-free summer fun:

  • And Then Comes Summer

    by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim

    There’s not one high score or YouTube video in sight in this charming ode to the rituals of summer. Share this lyrical list of summer pleasures, from bike riding to parade watching to marshmallow roasting, and ask students to write or draw about their favorite aspects of summer.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

  • Captain Jack and the Pirates

    by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

    The only thing better than a regular summer adventure is one that sets sail for imaginary seas. This one includes cannons, a treasure hunt, and enemy pirates — and just before it’s time to walk the plank, ice cream! When you need an activity that can stand up to pre-vacation excitement, share this story and then invite students to draw summer treasure maps or scenes from their own swashbuckling summer tales.
    (Ages 3 – 5)

  • The Sandcastle That Lola Built

    by Megan Maynor, illustrated by Kate Berube

    Whether or not you live near the ocean, this story celebrates how summer activities are perfect for making new friends. From Frisbee Dude to Minnesota Girl, there are plenty of playmates who want to add to Lola’s sandcastle in this beachy riff on “The House that Jack Built.” Ask your students: Where will you find new friends this summer?
    (Ages 3 – 5)

  • Fort-Building Time

    by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

    Building forts is fun in all seasons, but it’s an especially appealing way to spend a summer day. Playful illustrations and rhyming text celebrate blanket forts, tree forts, cardboard box forts, driftwood beach forts, and more. Send students home for vacation with their own plans for the ultimate summer hideout.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

  • The Golden Glow

    by Benjamin Flouw

    When Fox comes across a page in his botany book describing a never-before-seen rare flower, he wastes no time packing for a hiking trip to search it out. After a mountainous climb and help from some forest friends — victory! Perfect for captivating students’ waning attention, Fox’s quest invites children to daydream about what they might discover on summer hikes of their own.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

  • Goldfish on Vacation

    by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

    Three children and their grandpa join masses of other city kids in dropping their beloved goldfish off at the neighborhood fountain for a “summer vacation.” Of course, it’s not just the pets that end up having a blast; children meet at the fountain all summer to check on their fish, play, and listen to Grandpa’s tales of long ago. This whimsical book is the perfect inspiration for children to write their own summer stories.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

  • The Museum

    by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter Reynolds

    In lively rhyme, a girl describes how paintings at the art museum make her feel. When she happens upon a blank canvas, she finds herself bursting with artistic possibility. Use this book as a springboard to highlight local museums that would be perfect for a summer visit. (Some public libraries offer their patrons free passes to local museums — check with your local library to see if they offer any such perks for you to share with your students’ families.)
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Summer Supper

    by Rubin Pfeffer, illustrated by Mike Austin

    Growing and cooking delicious food are high on my list of favorite summer activities. This garden-to-table tale will make everyone’s mouths water. After reading, ask students to create their own colorful cut-paper collages of summer suppers. Award bonus points for incorporating alliteration; all the words in this title begin with S!
    (Ages 3 – 7)

  • On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

    by Beatrice Alemagna

    This title is for those kids who need a less subtle hint about the fun to be had when they ditch their devices. A young girl is angry when her mother confiscates her video game, but ends up having an even more satisfying adventure gathering treasures in the woods. What would your students do if their parents sent them outdoors to explore? A little collaborative brainstorming could be just the push they need to launch a summer of screen-free play.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

What books do you suggest for helping students get excited about summer adventures? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re looking for more lesson plans, book picks, and reading tips for your classroom or library, make sure to check out our Teach Brightly page!