Start with a Book

Ricky Rocket

Books and activities to build background knowledge — from Reading Rockets

collage of images of kids learning through books and hands-on activities

Summer Reading Chills and Thrills

Rachael Walker

Rachael Walker

Children's literacy consultant Rachael Walker and many of the authors, parents, and educators she’s met and worked with talk about how books have changed their lives, how to bring books to life for young readers, and how to enrich kids’ lives with good books. (Also visit Rachael at her blog, Belle of the Book.)


June 5, 2019

This will be my 47th summer as a reader.

My first summer as a reader was one of those unbearable hot, muggy Florida summers where you park yourself in front of the air conditioner and look longingly out the window, wishing for a trip to the beach or pool. Or pick up Norah Smaridge’s The Big Tidy-Up and Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and hide under your bed in the dark and the cool. For four-year-old me, that was quite the adventure. Monsters lived under my bed for goodness sake!

Both heart-pounding as well as some more chill summer reading excitement continues for me to this day. I’m already signed up for my public library’s summer reading program! But as the days get hotter, summer reading might not be the first thing on kids’ minds.

This summer at Book Life and Start with a Book, we’ll have some very special guests offer their excellent ideas about reading, talking, and exploring with kids during these long, warm, sunny days. We’ll hear from delightful children’s book authors including Erica Perl and Leah Henderson. We’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with Suzanne Slade and Astronaut Annie’s Journey to the International Space Station and poetry with Laura Purdie Salas, author of If You Were the Moon.

And we’ll hear from librarians, teachers, parents, and summer learning providers as they take all kinds of adventures with kids and books this summer, including our friends at Jubilee Housing who will be going on Space Rangers adventures to launch kids reading and learning about stars, our solar system, and space exploration.

Here are a few things to think about as your kids prepare for their own summer reading adventures:

Start by finding out what kids really want to do this summer

Try not to focus so much on what you would like to do with kids or what you think kids should do during the summer months. Don’t let your own passion for baseball interfere with your child’s desire to learn to code.

Connect kids with titles that match their interests and are books they choose to read or have read to them

If you need book recommendations, the free resources from Start with a Book build on what kids already like — dinosaurs, bugs, building, animals, sports, space, music and more — and provide fiction and nonfiction titles along with ideas for activities and suggestions to help get kids thinking, talking, creating and exploring.

Drop preconceptions of what reading is

Just because the school or library recommended reading list is filled with book titles, that doesn’t mean kids who prefer online news articles, magazines, comic books, recipes, or even trading cards aren’t reading. Talk to your kids about what they are reading — no matter what it is — and help them feel validated as readers even when their choice of reading material is not a book.

Read aloud

Again, it doesn’t have to be a book. Reading aloud together offers many opportunities to talk, talk, talk about what you’ve read. If you aren’t comfortable reading aloud, try listening to an audio book together. And make sure that you aren’t doing your own summer reading under the bed! We can’t expect kids to see the value of reading if they can’t see the important people in their lives doing it.

Help kids explore

If kids were good at exploring, you wouldn’t be hearing “I’m bored” so often. Check in with them about the things that seem energize them, like caring for a pet, karate, or baking cookies with friends. Those are leads to further explore. You also have to show them what’s out there in the world — and not just the things you are interested in or what you think kids are interested in, but the real unknowns. Just because a young girl loves pink and coming up with new hairstyles for dolls, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t love to spend time looking at cells under a microscope.

I hope you’ll check in here regularly this summer. We’re excited to help you get books in front of kids and start reading and talking together. You’ll definitely make an impression on kids with this old-fashioned way to beat the heat and fill long summer days. Reading never goes out of style.