A few weeks ago, when I started prepping for this post, I had a completely different list of books to share with you. However, based on everything happening as we entered June, I was compelled to revise my list. Nonetheless, my message remains the same: reading is essential, especially now more than ever. Although cliche, I truly believe reading is the foundation for education. A very young author and activist named Adora Svitak once said, “Students read for tests and because their parents ask them to, but I think it’s very important to tell children that you can read for fun and to understand human spirit. It builds empathy.” But before diving into my list of summer books for your kids, I wanted to share my four criteria for a good children’s book.
Illustrations in books are the bridge between new words or concepts and comprehension. It helps new readers make sense of the story. Some of my favorite books are stories that are told purely through illustrations, allowing a child’s imagination to come alive through their narrative, fueled by their limitless creativity. Which brings me to criteria #2.
Imagination is what keeps a child going back to read the same story over and over again. Kids live through imagination. It’s what drives them.
What is the purpose of the story? Is it to teach a subject like science or history? Or is it to show us a life lesson? Whatever the purpose is, it should spark your child’s interest to ask and learn more. For example, dinosaur books are a favorite of my son. While these books teach him about his favorite prehistoric creatures, they also spark his curiosity and serve as a conversation starter to learn more.
4. Post-reading Activities
The therapist in me is always asking: what’s next after you finished the story? Can we have discussions and implement changes in our thinking or doing? Can we create something tangible from the story? Post-reading activities keep a book alive and its message blooming long after you finished the last page.
With these four criteria in mind, here are a few good reads for your child this summer. Some are new, and others are oldies but goodies that fit our social climate at present.
The World Needs More Purple People
Purple is the color you get when you combine red and blue together. So instead of focusing on the political issues between red and blue, authors Kristen Bell (voice of Anna in Frozen) and Benjamin Hart want to focus on being purple. In the book, Penny Purple shares the importance of being kind, compassionate, and standing up for what’s right.
It’s Not My Fault
I love the idea of this book. The author, Jory John (also wrote Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems), shares the story of a boy who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. But what is he to do when actual objects rise-up and revolt against him? This concept reminds me of one of my ultimate favorite books, The Day The Crayons Quit. So let’s make that next on the list.
The Day The Crayons Quit
This book is an oldie but an all-time favorite of mine and many of my little patients. The story is about Duncan, who goes through a series of cleverly written letters from his crayons on why they are leaving the crayon box. The message is clear: each color is essential, and together they make beautiful pictures. It sounds like something we should always be reminding ourselves, especially in the current social climate.
Wild Symphony (release date Sept. 1, 2020)
Dan Brown, the writer of The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons, has a children’s book coming out about music. In this book, Maestro Mouse is your companion as you journey through the wild, discovering musical sounds and animals. In true Dan Brown fashion, there will be clues to decode and puzzles to solve. It also comes with a free app to enjoy music while you’re journeying through the book. I am super excited about this book, as it meets all 4 of my criteria for a great children’s book.
Little Leaders – Bold Women in Black History
As a mother of a boy and a girl, I think it is essential to educate them both on the achievements of women, especially women of color and their contribution to history and science. This book allows my daughter to be inspired as a woman and teaches my son about the magnificent contributions women have made. Vashti Harrison’s collections of similar books highlight both outstanding women and men in our decade. Read them all!
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
This book is about kindness and a call to action purely via pictures – no words! It’s a good book for parents and children to read and discuss the importance of being compassionate, kindhearted, and empathetic. You can read this book over and over again, and every time it’s a new story.
This is a thoughtfully written and illustrated book (amazing details to facial expressions) about being kind, especially when others are not. I have used this book during therapy to address social skills (facial expressions and what would you do scenarios), and every time I’m pleasantly surprised by the reactions and discussions this book evokes.
Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life
I’m a James Dean and Pete the Cat fan and use many of the books with my own children as well as for therapy. I even use a few for feeding therapy. Although this one came out in 2015, I never read until recently when my son received it as a gift. With famous quotes from Wayne Gretzky, Picasso, Plato, even Yiddish Proverbs, Pete puts his interpretation in words (and illustrations), so it’s simple for kids to understand. Also noteworthy: Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Kindness.
Something Happened In Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice
This book is a conversation starter. Marianne Celano raises crucial and tough issues that children are exposed to in today’s society, like race, discrimination, racial profiling, privilege, and typecasting. But she does this gently and respectfully. At times, we as parents need a little help getting our points across or just getting started on tough topics with our children. This book can help. I will be reading it with my son.
Set to be released in June 2020. Furry old Grover stars in this book, sharing what his alter-ego Super Grover enjoys doing with his friends on Sesame Street. Grover books tend to be a hit in my household, especially The Monster At The End of This Book.
The Berenstain Bears Visit Big Bear City (release date Sept. 1, 2020)
Since their 1st book in 1962, The Berenstain Bears series has been a young reader crowd pleaser simply because they are homogeneous and sweet-tempered. In the new release, the Bear clan visits Big Bear City (the equivalent of our New York City) for a full day of sightseeing and adventure.
Annie’s Life In Lists
Out at the end of June 2020, this book is ideal for any child moving to a new town or school. The main character, Annie, is shy but with an excellent memory and a love for making lists. She uses lists to help her stay on top of things.
The Bug Girl: A True Story
This book excites me, both as a woman and as a mother of a curious little girl. This is the story of Sophia Spencer, a young girl who was bullied for her love of bugs. That’s until her mother contacted The Entomological Society for help. This led to hundreds of scientists reaching out to Sophia (#BugsR4Girls), encouraging her to continue with her passion for science and nature. Way to go, Sophia’s mom!
Mem Fox, a famous Australian children’s book author, said, “The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, not by the child alone, not by the adult reading aloud–it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony”.
This is what reading time with your children is all about–building connections and trust through stories and dialogue, educating and shaping their minds to become good human beings. Cherish these moments. Happy reading.