Have kids dive into reading this summer with these favorite books, recommended by American Federation of Teachers staff.
I was the kid growing up who, when I had a choice, wouldn’t put a book down until I finished it. The times my parents would find me still up reading in the middle of the night and had to tell me, “Put the book down, turn the light off, and go to sleep,” are too numerous to count. When that last school bell rang, indicating the end of the school year and the beginning of summer break, I would be thrilled knowing that I could spend whole days tucked away on the loveseat sofa in the front room embarking on whatever adventure I would go on with the book I was reading.
While I may have lost some sleep over “just one more chapter” turning into finishing the whole book, luckily reading for fun has lots of benefits. Reading allows children to learn about the broader world around them; through reading, they can learn about different cultures, different life experiences, social issues, economic issues and how to relate to others. Reading can be instrumental in teaching kids strong social and emotional learning skills that will help them to become compassionate, open-minded and understanding individuals. It can also help expand students’ vocabularies. According to the Economic and Social Research Council, teenagers who read for fun know 26 percent more words than those who don’t. And through developing strong reading skills, students are empowered to take control of their future and learning by broadening their scope of learning. Additionally, reading sparks creativity, increases the likelihood of academic and economic success, and even benefits mental health. A study from the University of Sussex, reports that reading can reduce stress by 68 percent.
The benefits of reading are endless, and in recognition of this, the American Federation of Teachers and Share My Lesson are committed to ensuring that you are able to engage your children and students in reading this summer so they can reap all the benefits. That’s why we have not only created a collection of summer reading lesson plans and resources, but also have put together a list of staff-recommended books for your children, students and for you to delve into this summer. Read on to see what books should be added to your or your children’s 2022 summer reading lists.
Dawn Krusemark’s Pick
The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter | Adult Read
The newest in her mystery series with investigator Will Trent and medical examiner Sara Linton. I recommend the whole series but I thought this one was particularly gripping, and I learned a lot of science and details about cult living. It’s one that will take you out of your world and transport you to another. Beware, you won’t want to put it down.
Giselle Lundy-Ponce’s Picks
Ariol graphic novel series by Emmanuel Guibert | Grades 2-5
Recommended for ages 10 and up. An engaging, funny and clever set of stories that follows a tween donkey and introduces us to his family, diverse circle of friends, life in school, and life as an only child. The simple pleasures of life come alive in this book series. An escapist delight that tweens, teens and adults will enjoy.
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol | Grades 7+
Recommended for ages 12 and up, this graphic novel centers on a girl who is going through much teen angst, including being a first-generation immigrant, having conflicts with her family and feeling self-conscious; and then she meets a new pal—a friendly ghost at the bottom of a well who connects with her.
It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Adapted for Young Readers) by Trevor Noah | Grades 5+
Recommended for ages 10 and up. The kids’ version of Trevor Noah’s widely acclaimed memoir, Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood. Trevor Noah is the famous satirist host of “The Daily Show.” Kids will be riveted by Noah’s narrative of growing up under the apartheid system, the kind of prejudice he experienced, and his and his family’s resilience.
Giselle Lundy-Ponce's Picks Cont.
Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza | Grades PreK-2
Recommended for ages 5-10. In this girl-power tale, Lucia stands up to playground bullies who taunt her about girls not being superheroes. After her abuelita reveals a family secret, Lucia learns that she has the power to amaze! If you love this book, there’s a sequel! Lucia the Luchadora and the Million Masks.
The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) | Grades PreK-K
Recommended for ages 6 and up. Truly one of the most hilarious and original books I ever read with my child, complete with upper-tier complex words, no less. The illustrations by the New Yorker magazine-famous Roz Chast go perfectly with Steve Martin’s nutty narrative. Here’s an example: “V: In varsity, Victor was often victorious–Sadly, his winning made him vainglorious.”
Caribbean Alphabet by Frané Lessac | Grades PreK-2
Recommended for ages 3 and up. Another unique alphabet book for kids starting in preschool–you could certainly introduce much before that age, too. The illustrations are vivid and engaging, and you’ll introduce more high-level words like hibiscus, egret, and junkanoo! Additionally, you’ll expand your little ones’ knowledge of the world.
Megan Ortmeyer’s Picks
Listen to the Language of the Trees by Tera Kelley | Grades PreK-3
Teach students about the actual connection between trees in a forest, and about the importance of helping others with this engaging book, and download the activity kit from Sourcebooks on SML.
The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer | Grades 6+
This series explores multiple ideas and human rights issues, such as what it means to be human, the use of propaganda, prejudices in society, the use of child soldiers, and more. Engage students in the first two books in the series, Cinder and Scarlet, with classroom discussion questions provided by the author here.
Dear Justyce by Nic Stone | Grades 9+
This is the sequel to Nic Stone’s powerful book, Dear Martin, that tells the story of two friends from Southwest Atlanta, and how one becomes the victim of a broken criminal justice system while the other makes it to Yale University. Check out the lesson plan for Dear Martin, created by IMKessel.
Teresa Valcarce’s Pick
Get To Know Bernardo de Gálvez by Guillermo Fesser | Grades 2-5
A magnificent read for people of all ages. The short story narrates the main character’s desire to achieve justice for Bernardo de Gálvez—a Spanish general who played a key role in the American Revolution, but who had been forgotten for hundreds of years—by hanging his portrait in the U.S. Capitol. Despite Gálvez’s brilliant efforts throughout the war, Congress failed to recognize and honor his accomplishments.
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin | Grades PreK-3
The quirky, hilarious farmyard tale that started it all from the New York Times bestselling duo of Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin! Check out these two teaching resources on Share My Lesson:
Susan Ward's Picks
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis | Grades 4 and Up
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh | Grades 3-7
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary | Grades 2-7
Anything Shel Silverstein | Grades PreK-8
I love Where the Sidewalk Ends the best. The poems and the drawings are so interesting, and kids see different things in each poem.
Download the teaching resource for The Giving Tree on Share My Lesson here, the teaching resources for “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” here and here, or view learning resources from Shel Silverstein’s site here.
Susan Ward's Picks Cont.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple | Adult Read
The Shining and Doctor Sleep (Part 2) by Stephen King | Adult Read
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake (LGBTQIA+ romance) | Adult Read
Snow Moon Rising by Lori L. Lake | Adult Read
Agatha Raisin Mystery series by M.C. Beaton | Adult Read
I love British humor and my “go to” are the Agatha Raisin Mystery series by M.C. Beaton. My favorite is her first one Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson | Adult Read
Feel-good books by Elizabeth Berg | Adult Reads
- The Story of Arthur Truluv (Book 1)
- Night of Miracles (Book 2)
- The Confession Club (Book 3)
The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson | Adult Read
Susan Youssofi’s Picks
Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere (Mindfulness Moments for Kids) by Kira Willey | Grades PreK-3
Download mindfulness activities here.
Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free by Alice Faye Duncan, Keturah A. Bobo (Illustrator) | Grades PreK-3
Learn about the woman who campaigned all of America to celebrate Juneteenth. Access more resources on teaching and learning about Juneteenth
Darryl's Dream by Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Shawnee and Johnny Warfield, Adam Padilla and Tristan Tait (Illustrator) | Grades PreK-3
Learn from the author on the importance of literacy in his recent keynote for Share My Lesson.
Susan Youssofi's Picks Cont.
Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, Don Tate (Illustrator) | Grades 2-5
Ideal for summertime reading! Download free activities from the author here.
Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington and Theodore Taylor III (illustrator) | Grades 2-5
Have K-5 students grow their own urban pollinator community with this National Wildlife Federation Education guide.
The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest by Heather Lang, Jana Christy (Illustrator) | Grades 2-5
Try this standards-aligned discussion guide from the publisher.
Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson | Grades 5+
Brand-new historical fiction about a pair of enslaved children’s escape from a plantation near the Great Dismal Swamp. Hear what inspired the author.
But wait, there’s more!
Along with this reading list and Share My Lesson’s summer learning collection, we also have a whole community dedicated to literacy. Join the Reading Opens the World: A Community for Literacy to find free, upcoming and on-demand, professional development webinars along with literacy teaching resources and events. Last, for even more books to read and teach, be sure to check out Share My Lesson’s Diverse Books collection as well as Colorín Colorado’s (our resource hub for educators and parents of English language learners) Books and Authors page.
Your Summer of Learning
Looking for summer PD hours, ideas for back to school, or just ways to relax? Visit our 2022 Summer of Learning page for upcoming summer webinars, teaching resources, blogs, self-care ideas and more.
Megan Ortmeyer is an SML Team Member and has worked in the AFT Educational Issues Department since fall 2018. She received her M.A. in education policy studies in May 2020 from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University.