The Best Summer Reading Books for Kids

Two Girls Summer Reading
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Keep your kid's mind active during summer break with these fun reading picks.
Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Fantasy Fun

Even before unicorns were trending, Parents contributing editor Colby Sharp could barely keep the Phoebe and Her Unicorn graphic-novel series, by Dana Simpson, on the shelf in his fifth-grade classroom. Both boys and girls like the premise: Fourth-grader Phoebe rescues a unicorn who was trapped looking at her reflection in a pond. When the unicorn grants her a wish, Phoebe requests to be the unicorn’s best friend (well, after asking for “infinity more wishes”). The funny dialogue between sometimes bickering besties keeps kids turning the pages. Plus, Sharp appreciates that the books contain great vocabulary words that encourage kids to look up their meaning or figure them out from clues in the illustrations. Ages 7 to 11

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Creative Kids

A Sharp favorite for transitioning from early-reader books: Ivy + Bean, by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall, which follows two 7-year-old neighbors. At first, Bean thinks Ivy is too different to be a playmate, whining to her mom that Ivy has “never stomped in puddles.” But the two dream up zany ideas. After a five-year break, Barrows added the series’s eleventh installment last summer. Ages 6 to 9

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Kids Who Love Frog and Toad

Just like that famous duo, the main characters in Fox + Chick, by Sergio Ruzzier, are total opposites and close friends. Both books in this new series contain three chapters that focus on seemingly ordinary things (chocolate cake! sunrises! using the bathroom!), and serve up simple truths about human nature. Ages 5 to 7

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Kids Who Like Comics

A glossy graphic-novel series, Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey, follows the hilarious crime-fighting adventures of a dog with a man’s body. How’s that mash-up possible? Pilkey explains that when a cop and his canine companion were injured, they could only save the cop’s body and the dog’s head—a concept that hooks reluctant readers from the start. “My students also like that the book is ‘narrated’ by George and Harold, the kids they know from the beloved Captain Underpants series,” says Sharp. The seventh installment will be released in mid-August, just in time to fit in one more summer read. Ages 7 to 10

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Kids Who Love to Laugh

In The Treehouse series, by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, two pals enjoy living arrangements any kid would envy—their treehouse includes a swimming pool, an underground lab, and a marshmallow machine. Your reader will flip for the hilarious chapter on joke writing in the latest installment. Expect him to tell you some zingers about koalas. Ages 7 to 10

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Siblings to Share

The four-book Ling & Ting early-reader series, by Grace Lin, starts off with twins explaining why they’re “not exactly the same” even though everyone thinks they’re alike. Through short stories, kids learn that the sisters like different books and stuff dumplings in distinct ways, and that only one knows how to use chopsticks. “I appreciate the message of individuality,” says Sharp. Later titles focus on their birthday and rainy-day adventures. Ages 5 to 7

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Animal Lovers

Pom-pom crabs, saw-whet owls, and rosy-maple moths are among the awe-inspiring creatures in The World of Weird Animals, by Jess Keating and David DeGrand. “My students reread the books and tell each other about what they’ve learned,” says Sharp. Cute As an Axolotl, the latest in the three-book series, focuses on adorable animals. (Earlier books highlighted pink animals—a pink tarantula is a thing!—and “monster” creatures, like the horror frog.) “I like that nuggets of information appear along the side of each spread,” says Sharp. “It gives kids a lot of entry points into the text.” Ages 7 to 12

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

For Kids on a Team

Kids love to read about the sports they play or want to learn. Through fictional kid athletes, this beginning chapter-book series, Sports Illustrated Kids Victory School Superstars, explores two dozen options, including soccer, softball, gymnastics, and even BMX biking. “Messages about confidence and teamwork are woven into clever story lines,” says Sharp. “My students start off picking up one or two that relate to the sports they play and then end up reading many more.” Ages 7 to 11

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