Elementary School Summer Reading Tips

Elementary School Summer Reading Tips

Summer is a great opportunity to inspire a love of reading in your child. While things may be closed and opportunities for vacations or sports are limited, reading is a way to let their minds be free and explore! We decided to provide a list of tips from the author of Great Leaps, Kenneth Campbell, that he implemented with his own children to help you inspire a love of reading and curiosity for the world in your kids this summer. We also a list of kids books that were staff favorites organized by grade level for some ideas to get started!

Check it out.


Use the real world around us to reinforce their interests and curiosities. For example, if your child is fascinated by reptiles after reading a book about them go visit your local pet shop to ask questions and connect the text to reality. There’s plenty of free opportunities to do this and if you make a habit of it, they’ll be excited to finish books and looking forward to that reward. This concept goes both ways. When there’s an activity they love, reinforce it with some books! Many popular cartoons or video games also have comic books. Virtually any interest a child has can be reinforced with reading. Soon the kids will start to see how reading opens doors to exploring their interests in the world. 


Sometimes it’s hard to know if a book is actually good. You want to help them find something that they’re interested in AND that is within their reading level. Knowing if they’re interested in a book or not is fairly simple, but how do you know if they can actually read it comfortably? Find an excerpt of the book either online or pick a page at the store. Have your child read it to you out-loud. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but they shouldn’t be making many errors and should have full comprehension of what they’ve read. If the instructional reading level is 10% errors, they should only have errors on about 5% of word’s read. Use your ears and common sense to see if they are getting it. Listen for inflection, when you understand what you are reading it shows in the sound of the voice. Many children have been taught to figure out words accurately, the problem is they do not fluently read.

Staff picks of our favorite kids books grades 3-12

Pictures or no pictures? 

There are pro’s and con’s to both. Books without pictures allow a child to use their powerful imaginations to put themselves into the story or decide what the characters and places look like based on the world around them. Books with pictures or comic books can provide added details and excitement to a story that may be difficult for an author to communicate at a lower reading level. It can also be more engaging for kids who have shown a joy in art or drawing. They can appreciate and be inspired by the art in the books. A fun activity is having your child draw or paint a picture from a book they are presently reading turning it into a multi-sensory activity. 

Audio books for dyslexic students? 

While the most valuable thing you can do over the summer is begin a reading intervention like Great Leaps to teach them to read, you could also find audio books that capture their interest and stimulate the language part of the brain. Most language obtained after third grade is through reading. Dr. Ken Pugh of Yale has pointed out that reading is listening with your eyes. Thus, if vocabulary is increasing by listening with your eyes (reading) you should get similar results when a child actively listens to books on tape. If you listen with them, remember you can pause, ask them questions and have discussions on what you’ve just heard. What do you think will happen next? Why do you think this character did that? What would you have done in that situation? It appears that entertaining television does little to enhance vocabulary development.


You, the parent, reading consistently will normalize the activity in your house and show your child that reading is relaxing and a normal activity of day to day life. Spark conversations and show your own excitement over a book or article that you have read that may be of interest to your child. Modeling a desired behavior is powerful.


There’s lots of value in reading to your child each night. This allows the opportunity to expose your kids to books that are a little bit beyond their own reading and language level. This also provides the opportunity to  talk and put their thoughts into words working on their expressive language. Encourage them to ask questions about words they don’t know. Help them learn the new word with examples of its use.  Building this positive routine can make kids look forward to bedtime. 

Staff picks of our favorite kids books grades 3-12


With the digital age, there are less and less people subscribing to magazines but we recommend you subscribe to a couple to be delivered in print to have around the house. Do your kids like video games? Sports? Horses? Science? There’s magazines out there for just about anything. You can also make an activity out of cutting out pictures to make collages of their favorite story or interests.


Language is the prerequisite to reading. This summer, make a conscious effort to have conversations with your children and ask them all kinds of open ended questions. Try to get them to make up stories or ask them about something fun that happened when they were with their friends. Give children the time to think independently and respond. Remember mad-libs? Where the kids fill in the blanks of a story? Give me a noun, a verb etc. That’s another great way to show them the power of language. Here’s a link to some free mad-libs you can do with them. https://www.woojr.com/printable-mad-libs-for-kids/ 


Be very careful and intentional about making reading and learning a positive experience. If they do not like a book that you’re reading to them, or a book they’ve started to read themselves, don’t force them to finish it. To tell you the truth, you are wasting valuable time. In my own life, if a book cannot engage me in the first twenty to thirty pages, I find something else. It is not the time to talk about how much that book cost. There are thousands of great books to choose from, and it doesn’t matter if you think it’s good or not; what matters most is if they enjoy it and are excited about reading it. If they have a required summer reading list, there are ways to make that rewarding too. Just use incentives wisely or make a game out of it. If they are required to read an awful book - and yes, some requirements are absolutely dreadful - be honest with your child and work as a team to get the drudgery out of the way. Always follow the completion of  what may be an unpleasant or forced task with an enjoyable activity. Be a team member or coach in these endeavors.

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