Growing Reader

The Ultimate Summer Reading List for 6- to 8-Year-Olds — 2018 Edition

by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Photo credit: Wavebreakmedia, iStock Collection/Getty Images

It’s that time of year again! One of the best things about summer reading is that “anything goes” feeling. Especially in the early grades, when there tends to be less emphasis on required reading, it can be a joyful time of choice, reading for the sheer pleasure of it, and developing literacy skills for the school year ahead. Plus, there are so many possibilities when it comes to reading this season: reading by flashlight, reading outside, reading on family trips, leisurely library visits followed by ice cream, and much more.

Here are a few suggestions for those who might be ready to read on their own, but still love a good storytime as well. (And that’s all of us, amirite?)

  • Class Act

    by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    It’s not often that a series can seem both instantly classic and thoroughly modern at the same time — Kelly Starling Lyons, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and their science-loving heroine Jada Jones have a winner on their hands with Jada Jones series. The always charming Jada is running for class rep and while she thinks she can do a great job if she wins, getting there is going to be a challenge. Public speaking makes her nervous and she may also have to run against a good friend. The way Jada and her friends handle issues of friendship, trust, and self-confidence will resonate with young readers, and Newton’s expressive art is lively and inviting. With short chapters and charming characters, this is a bite-sized read with tons of flavor — perfect for newly independent readers.

  • Fish Are Not Afraid of Doctors

    by J. E. Morris

    Children and adults alike are familiar with the feeling of being afraid of something that they know is good for them. And a visit to the doctor’s office is often one that inspires a whole host of complicated emotions. In this installment of the brand-new Maud the Koala series, Maud is inspired by the doctor’s fish tank to find an imaginative way of soothing her nerves before getting a shot. The deft storytelling and kid-friendly art make the gentle lessons about coping strategies seamless. (Want more Maud? See what happens when the adorable koala has to face a big celebration in Much Too Much Birthday.)

  • The Funniest Man in Baseball: The True Story of Max Patkin

    by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Jennifer Bower

    Vernick knocks it out of the park, using her trademark wit to tell a multi-layered story of Patkin’s journey from the minor leagues to the Navy, then to becoming a crowd-pleasing artist in this uniquely sweet and funny picture book biography. Baseball fan or not, anyone who loves a great story of making the most out of life will enjoy this one.

  • Grilled Cheese and Dragons

    by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Ben Balistreri

    Princess Serena is convinced that she has the wrong name. "Serena comes from the word serene. And serene means calm and peaceful. I’m neither of those," she tells the hilariously named Lady Frump. She’d rather be called Princess Pulverizer and would definitely rather wield a sword than have tea party lessons. With a sweet dragon named Dribble, and a not-so-heroic seeming knight-in-training named Lucas, the new Princess Pulverizer series from Krulik and Balistreri is as much fun as it sounds and is bound to inspire all kinds of imaginative play.

  • Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl

    by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

    I adore this series! Jasmine is a go-getter with spunk to spare. When the school talent show is announced, she’s ready for it ... or is she? Her friends all have something special to share, and Jasmine wonders what she can do, especially in order to beat Miss Perfect Maggie Milsap at the talent show game. Eventually, Jasmine learns to play the taiko drum but wonders if she’ll be good enough to win it all. A sweet, sassy, and fun installment in the Jasmine Toguchi world. (The next, Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper, will be available in July.)

  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Dinosaur Survival Guide

    by David Lewman, illustrated by Random House

    Fans of dinosaurs will love joining in on the Jurassic Park fun this summer — even if they aren’t yet old enough to watch “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” In this full-color guide, kids can explore the fictional island’s super-secret history and imagine how they might survive alongside its cool dinosaur-inspired creatures.

  • Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

    by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno

    The rainbow has long been a symbol of hope. In this inspiring picture book, Sanders and Salerno bring to beautiful life the true story of how designer Gilbert Baker and activist Harvey Milk designed the Gay Pride Flag and how it became an iconic representation of love and equality. “This book tells a history that all children will cherish, and will inspire the next generation of hope givers,” says Harvey Milk Foundation President Stuart Milk.

  • Search for the Mermicorn

    by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallan

    Forget about unicorns — are mermicorns real? There are lots of the creatures in the ocean to focus on for their school project, but Purrmaids protagonists Coral, Angel, and Shelly really want to choose a topic that’s special. With help from a student at the Science Center, they just might ace the project and prove the existence of mermicorns, once and for all.

  • Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams

    by Howard Bryant, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

    Rooted in the bonds of sisterhood, this inspiring picture book biography is a powerful reminder of the remarkable accomplishments of the siblings who truly transformed the tennis world. The story follows the extraordinary journey of the Williams sisters — from Compton, California, to Olympic gold and top world ranking. Cooper’s art beautifully captures the grace and power of Venus and Serena Williams, offering readers an opportunity to soar along with them.

  • She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History

    by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

    In this companion to the bestselling She Persisted, Chelsea Clinton profiles 13 women who have changed the course of history around the world. Readers will be inspired by these women who spoke up and kept going against the odds, who didn’t step aside or let others define them: Marie Curie, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Viola Desmond, Sissi Lima do Amor, Leymah Gbowee, Caroline Herschel, Wangari Maathai, Aisha Rateb, J.K. Rowling, Kate Sheppard, Yuan Yuan Tan, Mary Verghese, and Malala Yousafzai. A nightly read of She Persisted Around the World will have young dreamers and doers cheering on these women — and themselves.

  • The STEAM Team: Simple Science Explained

    by Lisa Burke

    Keep the learning going all summer! Filled with vibrant illustrations and STEAM topics, The STEAM Team is sure to answer lots of growing readers’ budding questions about the world. Flip through the pages and discover facts about biology, physics, chemistry, geography, math, engineering, and more. (For more STEAM inspiration, check out How to Be an Engineer!)

  • The Story of Tennis Champion Arthur Ashe

    by Crystal Hubbard, illustrated by Kevin Belford

    Known for his grace both on and off the courts, Arthur Ashe was the first African American man to win a Grand Slam tournament and he became a global activist, a leader in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, along the way. Hubbard, who met Ashe a few times, tells a story that feels personal; she draws you in while offering abundant details and information. Readers facing any challenge will get a boost from Ashe’s own words to his daughter: “Wherever I am when you feel sick at heart and weary of life, or when you stumble and fall and don’t know if you can get up again, think of me. I will be watching and smiling and cheering you on.”

  • There’s No Base Like Home

    by Jessica Mendoza and Alana Mendoza Dusan, illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

    Baseball fans who want meaty text will have a lot of fun with this story from Olympic gold medalist and ESPN MLB analyst Jessica Mendoza. Chock-full of ebullient art from Ruth McNally Barshaw (creator of The Ellie McDoodle Diaries), this story of softball-playing Sophie Maria Garcia’s friendship challenges and confidence struggles is an absolute home run.

What books are you looking forward to reading and sharing with your 6-, 7-, or 8-year-old this summer?