Not all of us are lucky enough to fall in love with reading at an early age or to sustain that love through adolescence. But nearly all of us late-blooming, avid readers can pinpoint a specific book that gave us the joy to keep coming back for more.
For me, it happened during my junior year of high school. All of my friends were busy making plans for college majors, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. And then my librarian gave me a copy of Are You Out There, God? Not to be confused with the Judy Blume novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Are You Out There, God? is a tiny nonfiction book written by Mary Rose McGeady, a nun who ran Covenant House in the Bronx during the drug- and crime-infested decades of the ’80s and ’90s.
I was riveted. The book not only sparked a love of reading to expand my worldview. It also set the course for my life’s purpose of promoting justice, empowerment and well-being through education.
How many children and teens could have similar experiences this summer? Our annual curation of recommended collections of books should help you in this effort.
First, a word of advice from an incredible librarian, Sylvie Shaffer:
“Ideally, each school will select summer reading that speaks to their school community. Therefore, while some blanket recommendations are a good place to start, I like to talk with teachers and look at the curriculum to determine what would be a valuable and enjoyable set of books for each grade.
“Student interests and local connections are important, and we should think about what purpose the reading serves. Will it help to preview and scaffold themes or content the kids will encounter the next school year? Keep them thinking through the summer to reinforce and provide some metacognition opportunities from the prior school year? Encourage them to read for pleasure … a well curated summer reading list can do all that and more!”
Find recommended lists for all age levels in the Association for Library Service to Children 2018 Summer Reading Lists.
The ALSC also has a huge list of books by topic such as STEAM, immigration, kindness and peace.
Find picture books, chapter books, parent resources, websites and videos for lots of different topics such as arts and culture, animals, and human rights.
If you are looking for an amazing list of books on multiculturalism and specific groups, be sure to check out this list.
Find bilingual videos and booklists for English language learners.
Promote awareness, tolerance and acceptance through this expansive list of books on gender, race, religion and other identities.
Finally, we wanted to share some information from our incredible partner First Book to help ensure that all classrooms and students have access to fantastic books.
All families want to instill a love of reading in their children. But more than 1.3 million children in America come from low-income families, many of whom can’t afford to fill their homes with books for their kids. This is where educators like you so often come in, and First Book can help you provide the resources that all of the children you serve deserve.
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise working exclusively with programs and schools serving kids in need to ensure they have access to top-quality books and educational resources. Sign up with First Book for immediate access to materials that the children you serve need to succeed—without breaking your budget.
Signing up with First Book is free for every educator in your program or school. Books can be used to build program libraries or sent home for families to enjoy together.
Here’s how to access books for your students:
- Sign up with First Book! All people serving children from underserved communities are eligible to sign up with First Book to access free and low-cost books and resources.
- Visit the First Book Marketplace to access deeply discounted brand-new books, school supplies, and basic-needs items for children from birth to age 18.
- Tell your co-workers and community partners about First Book. Pass this email on to your fellow program staff, teachers and partners anywhere in the country, and anyone else working with low-income families so they can sign up, too!
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- Bonus Ideas: Be sure to visit our Summer Reading Collection and last year’s Summer List for more great ideas. And, if your kids like videos, try Storyline Online, where actors read award-winning books for children aged preK through grade 5.
- Discover more of the decade's free, top-rated content and explore the curated collection of our best news stories, blogs, webinars and more!