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July 13, 2013

What are you reading with your kids this summer?

By Connie Matthiessen, Associate Editor

Reading in the park

If you ask me, reading with kids is one of life’s purest pleasures. But now that my kids are older (14, 17, and 18), reading together is a rare event. It’s hard to corral them all into the same room on a summer evening, and persuading them to sit down together to listen to a book is even more of a challenge. Last year we had a few exciting nights with Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, followed later in the summer with the shivery delights of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And we recently listened to a couple of audio chapters of David Sedaris’s new book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls , before everyone dashed off in different directions.

Why read?

I haven’t given up — I’m always on the lookout for books that will grab my kids’ attention. Of course, as we talk about a lot at GreatSchools, reading together isn’t just a cozy way to stay connected; it’s an essential learning tool — all year round. In a recent article in Time, for example, Annie Murphy Paul pointed out that reading just four to five books over the summer can stem summer learning loss. And reading expert Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, makes a powerful case for reading aloud, even to older kids.

No matter what age your child,  what to read is always a question. That’s why we launched a Twitter discussion, #readingwithmykids, and asked readers to send us their summer book ideas.

Superfudge, Purplicious. and other delights

Here are a few of the suggestions we received:

More book ideas from readers and friends: 

"We loved The One and Only Ivan and are now reading the amazing Wildwood"  @aarieff  

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler before our trip to #NYC this month”  @wisek8

Emily Windsnap series, when my 9-yr-old's not in the water like half-mer Emily”   @TriciaGalloway

"My son and I are reading books by #KathyReichs@2stepcannon

“My daughter is reading The Madness Underneath and I'm reading The Maze Runner”  @IngridDayton

"The Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles”  @BernadetteBytes  

“We are reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu (high schoolers) and The Borrowers by Mary Norton (5th grader)”  @TheUNEEK1  

Jacob Two-two Meets the Hooded Fang is a childhood favorite I love to read w my kids"  @gretared  

“My daughter is 15, so she's reading The Catcher in the Rye , and so am I"  @swamus 

Purplicious; A Wrinkle in Time, Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder (w/ my 5-y-o)  @karissasparks

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman —such a great antidote to the medieval myths — even the ladies have fleas!” @Carol__Lloyd

Find the perfect book

Still on the hunt for the perfect book? Here are more read-aloud ideas for kindergartners, first graders, and second graders.  And check this out: kids in first through sixth grade can get a free book at Barnes & Noble if they read eight books.

This discussion is just starting! Tweet your book suggestions to us @GreatSchools using #readingwithmykids!


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We've never been big on reading together. I'll read a book and pass it on, or my kids will read something and I'll read it after, but not together. We do make it a habit of when she reads something we watch the movie together (i.e., Jurassic Park), but for us reading is a more private endeavor.

My daughter has a ton of stuff to read this summer, so who knows what she'll prioritize. I just finished Wicked, and started Into the Wild. I'm aiming for Les Miserables and Watership Down after that. If she gets through Watership Down and Les Miserables by the end of 7th grade, I'll be happy.

Our daughters, 7 and 9, enjoy listening to me read aloud every chance we get. We started with "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl. We compared the reading to the old version movie and the play from my school. The adventure continued with "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator", and now we are on "Matilda". We also read, "Who Was Roald Dahl?" to learn more about his life and his work. I noticed that the girls were engaged when I read aloud, and especially if there are movies to watch and to compare afterwards. Happy read aloud!

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