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Summer Books and Activities for Kids

Families and Communities

Families and Communities

How to explore this theme:

  1. Choose books and book-related activities
  2. Explore more hands-on activities
  3. Try some summer writing
  4. Dig deeper with these websites
  5. Play and learn with interactive mobile apps

#1: Choose kids' books and book-related activities Great Fiction & Nonfiction Books

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A Chair for My Mother

A Chair for My Mother

By: Vera Williams

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

After a fire destroys their home and possessions, Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother save their money to buy a big comfortable chair. Suffused with warmth and tenderness, <i>A Chair for My Mother</i> celebrates family love and determination. A Caldecott Honor book. Spanish version also available.

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All Kinds of Families

All Kinds of Families

By: Mary Ann Hoberman | Illustrated by: Marc Boutavant

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Playful language distinguishes this broad and often funny look at what makes "family." Vibrant, detailed, and stylized illustrations complement this engaging rhyming jaunt.

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Another Brother

Another Brother

By: Matthew Cordell | Illustrated by: Matthew Cordell

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

"For four glorious years, Davy had Mom & Dad all to himself." But things changed when not one but 12 brothers arrived. Line drawings add expression and comedy to the understated text for a laugh-out-loud sheep tale sure to be enjoyed by those with &mdash or without &mdash new siblings.

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Apple Pie Fourth of July

Apple Pie Fourth of July

By: Janet Wong | Illustrated by: Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A young girl worries that no one will buy the Chinese foods made by her family, especially on the fourth of July — the most American of holidays. Bold colors and shapes convey the child's changing emotions and loving family in this very warm and realistic story.

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Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic

Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic

By: Ginnie Lo | Illustrated by: Beth Lo

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

While on a visit to her aunt and uncle in Illinois, the narrator and her family unexpectedly find a field of growing soybeans which begins a 40 year tradition. Based on the author's experiences, text and child-like illustrations reveal a caring, surprisingly modern family story from times past.

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Bee-Bim Bop!

Bee-Bim Bop!

By: Linda Sue Park | Illustrated by: Ho Baek Lee

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

What's better than just eating a favorite dish? Anticipating it while preparing it, of course! Rhythmic, rhyming language and playful illustrations capture the joy of making this special Korean dish — and the joy of sharing it.

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Bigmama's

Bigmama's

By: Donald Crews

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Every year the narrator and his family take a trip down to Cottondale, Florida, to visit his grandmother, Bigmama. This autobiographical story recalls the joys of summer and the contrast between the author's life in the city and Bigmama's lush, rural home. While the illustrations suggest it was a period of segregation, this thought never overpowers the carefree summer celebration.

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Black Is Brown Is Tan

Black Is Brown Is Tan

By: Arnold Adoff | Illustrated by: Emily Arnold McCully

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Rhythmic language and luminous paintings show the joy of this warm and loving family as they rejoice in their differences.

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Blackout

Blackout

By: John Rocco

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Does no electricity mean that there's nothing to do or are there new adventures just waiting to happen? A family and their neighbors find out one hot summer night in the city. Luminous illustrations and limited text reveal the unexpected, joy-filled pleasures of a blackout.

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Building Our House

Building Our House

By: Jonathan Bean

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The oldest child narrates the family's move from the city to build their own house on farm land. How the family works together planning and building while living in a tiny trailer pays homage to the author's parents who are introduced in photographs and a note at the end.

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Cherry Pies and Lullabies

Cherry Pies and Lullabies

By: Lynn Reiser

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Three generations bake a pie, make a crown of flowers, pass on a handmade quilt, and share a lullaby. Each time "it was the same, but different," highlighting the connections between generations. Vividly colored, child-like illustrations effectively complement the rhythmic text.

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Chicken Sunday

Chicken Sunday

By: Patricia Polacco

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Love and caring extend across generations and cultures as a young Jewish girl from a Russian background and two African-American boys work creatively to get their gramma, Miss Eula, an Easter hat. Illustrations detail the warmth of the relationships as well as the subtleties of their different backgrounds.

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Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do

By: Katherine Heling, Deborah Hembrook | Illustrated by: Andy Davies

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Clothes on lines and a rhyming description ask readers to figure out what job the wearer might do. The first is a mail carrier who delivers to community workers until all come together for a rocket launch in a presentation with crisp illustrations on white pages and simple clues.

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How Far Do You Love Me?

How Far Do You Love Me?

By: Lulu Delacre | Illustrated by: Lulu Delacre

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A warm portrait of universal parental love begins on a beach when a boy asks his mother, "How far do you love me?" Lyrical responses combine with stunning double page illustrations in places around the globe until the boy is tucked into bed with his response: "I love you to the moon!" A world map and the query in each language conclude this tender book.

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How to Babysit a Grandpa

How to Babysit a Grandpa

By: Jean Reagan | Illustrated by: Lee Wildish

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Babysitting can be fun, especially if you get to babysit your grandpa! A child's advice makes for an active and very funny time together as they share snacks, a walk, and more before the parents' return. Straightforward text is enhanced by spirited, comical illustrations.

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I Love Saturdays y domingos

I Love Saturdays y domingos

By: Alma Flor Ada | Illustrated by: Elvia Savidier

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A girl visits both sets of grandparents on weekends. On Saturdays, she speaks English with Grandpa and Grandma, while on Sundays, los domingos, she speaks Spanish with Abeulito and Abeulita. The format provides a glimpse at the subtle differences between cultures and highlights their similarities, one of which is each set of grandparents' love for their granddaughter. Spanish words are interspersed in the fluid text.

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Just the Two of Us

Just the Two of Us

By: Will Smith | Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Jubilant illustrations show how a father supports his son as he grows into a man and eventually becomes a father himself. The text is from Will Smith's popular song of the same name, and is distinguished by luminous, full-color paintings that make the words sing.

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Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile

By: Gloria Houston | Illustrated by: Susan Condie Lamb

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Dorothy became a librarian to share her love of books and reading. How she started a library service first on a bookmobile and later inspired a building -- touching many lives in her North Caroline town -- is based a real person that the author knew. Gentle language and soft illustration present Miss Dorothy's story and the impact of one individual.

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One Gorilla: A Counting Book

One Gorilla: A Counting Book

By: Anthony Browne

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Whether or not the primates introduced from 1 to 10 are familiar, readers are sure to appreciate meeting them in arresting portraits. A self-portrait of the illustrator and other humans are accompanied by concluding text: "All primates. All one family. All my family … and yours!"

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Plant a Little Seed

Plant a Little Seed

By: Bonnie Christensen | Illustrated by: Bonnie Christensen

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Two children start to plan their community garden while snow is still on the ground. Come spring they "plant a little seed or two...or more" and wait. They work and wait until the harvest and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) with neighbors. Illustrations in vivid color and strong line paint the garden, its visitors, and the dedicated gardeners.

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Rainbow Stew

Rainbow Stew

By: Cathryn Fallwell

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The children are distressed that it's raining while visiting their grandfather. But Grandpa has the children don rain gear to "find colors for garden stew." Vegetables collected, the family makes and eats a delicious stew. Joy-filled illustrations accompany the rhythmic text.

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Thanking the Moon

Thanking the Moon

By: Grace Lin | Illustrated by: Grace Lin

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

As they did for the Lunar New Year, each family member contributes to the preparations for the mid-autumn moon festival. Their special picnic includes mooncakes and tea as well as affection. An author's note not only informs but may inspire other celebrations.

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The Village Garage

The Village Garage

By: G. Brian Karas

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The workers at the village garage are busy all year long! They're busy from spring clean up to fall leaf collection, keeping their town safe and clean. Cartoon-like illustrations highlight the informative, engaging text.

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We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past

We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past

By: Jacqueline Woodson | Illustrated by: Diane Greenseid

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Teeka has a sharp eye as she describes each member of the family that joins the picnic in the park while waiting to see if the aunt with the dried out pie arrives. Lively language and animated, colorful illustrations make this picnic jump off the page.

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We March

We March

By: Shane Evans

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Two children aroused by their parents join a march for equal rights. Short sentences and semi-abstract illustrations convey the children's evolving feelings as they join scores of others in what adults recognize as an historic march for civil rights.

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Willie and Uncle Bill

Willie and Uncle Bill

By: Amy Schwartz | Illustrated by: Amy Schwartz

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When the doorbell rings three times, Willie knows that Uncle Bill has arrived to watch Willie while mom is away. In three short vignettes, Willie and his uncle make memories over a haircut, cooking and music. Jaunty illustrations portray lively and engaging characters and the warmth shared among them.

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Age Level: 6-9 years old

A City Through Time

A City Through Time

By: Philip Steele | Illustrated by: Steve Noon

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Follow the progress of an imaginary city through six key periods of time, each captured by a scene of the city and zooming in on key buildings like a Roman bathhouse, medieval castle, and a modern skyscraper. Young readers are introduced to the people who lived there, from Greek slaves to modern-day commuters. [Amazon]

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Barrio: José's Neighborhood/Barrio: El barrio de José

Barrio: José's Neighborhood/Barrio: El barrio de José

By: George Ancona

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

José lives in a diverse neighborhood where he's just as likely to hear Spanish, English, or Chinese. The appealing photographs in this book document José's life at home, at school, and on the streets of his barrio in San Francisco, a city that is a vibrant mosaic of different cultures. (Available in a Spanish edition and in an English edition with a Spanish glossary).

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Bronzeville Boys and Girls

Bronzeville Boys and Girls

By: Gwendolyn Brooks | Illustrated by: Faith Ringgold

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

This collection of poems, first published in 1956, reveals the heroes we see in our everyday lives. Vibrant paintings add a fresh, new dimension and bring the poet's Chicago neighborhood to life.

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City Green

City Green

By: DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

There is a garbage-filled, vacant lot on the street where Marcy lives. Instead of growing flowers in coffee cans like they usually do each spring, she and her friend Miss Rosa decide to plant a garden there. Their enthusiasm and energy spread and everyone in the neighborhood joins together to create an urban oasis. (From School Library Journal)

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Crouching Tiger

Crouching Tiger

By: Ying Chang Compestine | Illustrated by: Yan Nascimbene

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Vinson's grandfather visits from China, the boy has conflicting feelings about his grandfather's old ways. A visit to Chinatown to experience the lion dancers celebrate the Chinese New Year bring Ming Da (Vinson) and his grandfather closer. Watercolor and ink illustrations add power to the warm, plausible story.

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Dear Mr. Rosenwald

Dear Mr. Rosenwald

By: Carole Boston Weatherford

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A 10 year old girl narrates this fictionalized story, based on real events and people, of how her rural southern town builds a new school for African American children with the help of Julius Rosenwald (then president of Sears Roebuck).

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Family Pictures/Cuadros de familia

Family Pictures/Cuadros de familia

By: Carmen Garza

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The artist recalls growing up in south Texas in this celebration of family and cultural traditions presented in vivid paintings and short prose in Spanish and English. Garza's pride in her Mexican-American heritage is evident and celebrated in this handsome book.

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If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States

If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States

By: David Smith | Illustrated by: Shelagh Armstrong

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

If all of the 300 million people were simply one village of 100 people, its diversity is easier to understand. That's just what the author has done to make the complex make-up of the U.S. residents (in terms of languages spoken, ages, and more). Colorful illustrations accompany the understandable text. Additional resources complete the book. If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World's People, also by Smith, looks at the inhabitants of the world as a village to allow its diversity to become more understandable for adults and children.

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In My Family/En mi familia

In My Family/En mi familia

By: Carmen Garza

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Kingsville, on the border of Mexico and Texas, comes to life in words and pictures in this book. Readers will share the simple joys of eating, dancing, and celebrating as the artist remembers her own childhood. Her stories, presented in both English and Spanish, are accompanied by her bright paintings.

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Me and My Family Tree

Me and My Family Tree

By: Joan Sweeney | Illustrated by: Annette Cable

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A young girl uses simple language, her own childlike drawings, and diagrams to explain how the members of her family are related to each other and to her. Clear, colorful, detailed artwork and a fill-in family tree in the back help make the parts of the family — from siblings to grandparents to cousins. [Amazon review]

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Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius

By: Barbara Cooney

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Miss Rumphius leaves the world more beautiful with an unusual legacy. This gentle story can relate to not only the language arts, but to dreams, legacies, and the environment.

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Nadia's Hands

Nadia's Hands

By: Karen English | Illustrated by: Jonathan Weiner

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Nadia is thrilled to be the flower girl at her aunt's wedding, yet continues to worries her classmates will respond on Monday to the temporary henna tattoos (mehndi). The intricate hand decorations that wear off slowly are a tradition of the family's Pakistani background. Respect for tradition and the need to conform are at odds, but then resolved in this well illustrated story.

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Piñata Maker/El Piñatero

Piñata Maker/El Piñatero

By: George Ancona

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fiestas often involve puppets, masks, and piñatas. Meet Tio Rico, the elderly piñata maker in a Mexican town, whose artful creations are shown from start to finish in this handsomely photographed book. The text is presented in both Spanish and English.

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Red, White, and Boom!

Red, White, and Boom!

By: Lee Wardlaw | Illustrated by: Huy Voun Lee

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

From one end of the United States to the other, the 4th of July is celebrated: on beaches, with parades, picnics, and of course fireworks. Cut paper collage combine with appealing, rhyming, short poetry to re-create the heat and rhythm of summer and the pleasure in its goings-on.

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Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book

Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book

By: Nikki Grimes

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Dyamonde, a bright, articulate and confident 3rd grader, is entering the library's poetry contest to win the prize money. Then Dyamonde and her friend, Free, learn that their new friend, Damaris, who is also the best poet in their class, lives in a homeless shelter. The duo of friends turns into a trio -- who take a different look at what wealth really means.

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The Ugly Vegetables

The Ugly Vegetables

By: Grace Lin

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a neighborhood of flower gardens, a Chinese-American girl and her mother plant what the child considers to be ugly vegetables. The ugly vegetables, however, become attractive and help build community when made into a delicious soup! A recipe is included.

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Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding

Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding

By: Lenore Look | Illustrated by: Yumi Heo

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Jenny's favorite uncle, Uncle Peter, is getting married. Now Jenny won't be his only "special girl" any longer; she'll have to share him with Stella! But Peter's bride is as happy to have a new niece as she is beautiful and wins Jenny over. Child-like illustrations reflect the traditions and warmth of this Chinese American family.

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Age Level: 9-12 years old

Murals: Walls That Sing

Murals: Walls That Sing

By: George Ancona

Age Level: 9-12 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ancona takes a look at Latino and Hispanic murals within the United States in this fascinating photo-essay. The photos vary between broad shots, close-ups that reveal details, and images of a variety of people either creating or viewing the paintings.

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More great summer resources for parents from Reading Rockets

Read Aloud Tips

Read Aloud Tips

Read aloud every day with your child and talk about what you're reading. These two simple activities help build your child's vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Get tips (In English and 10 other languages) >

Downloadables

Downloadables

Download these colorful ready-to-print lunch box notes, play date cards, and door hangers for the kids in your life.

Download and print >