What To Do About Your Child’s Summer Reading Assignments

Summer reading is not what it used to be for kids. At one time, many kids relished the time off from the school year to pick up the books they wanted to read and enjoy them without pressure. These days children have neither the desire nor the luxury.

Almost all children with whom I work in my clinical practice have summer reading assignments. Younger students are usually required to read only one or two books, but sometimes it can be more. For kids with reading challenges–poor decoding skills, slow reading fluency, or difficulty with vocabulary or comprehension–having to read even one book may appear to be an arduous task. Unfortunately, these are the same kids who would benefit from reading far more than one book. With these children I suggest that parents find a way to get the assigned reading over with as quickly and painlessly as possible, but take the rest of the summer to encourage other forms of summer reading.

The summer is the best time for other types of reading. I encourage parents to think about additional reading in a less traditional fashion. Consider children’s time spent online as an opportunity to do more than play video games or be involved with their social media. Even video games may require reading. Check out this list of 84 games and counting that require reading to play and succeed. Encourage children to do some online research to learn about a trip you are going to take later in the summer or to develop a hobby that requires some basic training. Use their online time to encourage an interest that might take you to the library for books in that area.

For many adults, the idea of summer reading is to find a page-turning novel that can be read leisurely on the beach. That is, if you even have the time or desire to read. Modeling is the best way to encourage your kids to read. If you can use the summer as an opportunity to get them to enjoy reading, and find books where they can’t wait to find out what happens, you might create a lifelong love of reading. With that in mind, we have selected a number of book series and books that are exciting and can engage children in wanting to read more and more. We have also selected books where the main characters show strong skills in their use of executive functions and social emotional learning. We provide a few talking points that could help to bring these book-based skills to life. The following books and series are some of the best entry ways to get reluctant readers involved with books.

Book Title: Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus

Author: Barbara Park

Book Type: First in a series of 28 as of August 2012

Genre: Humor, Fiction

Recommended Age Group: 6-9

Also Available as: Audiobook, E-book, Whispersync

Thinking Skills Used: Self-control, self-awareness, and sustained attention

Book Summary:  From Amazon, “Meet the World’s Funniest Kindergartner—Junie B. Jones! Remember when it was scary to go to school? In the first Junie B. Jones book, it’s Junie B.’s first day and she doesn’t know anything. She’s so scared of the school bus and the meanies on it that when it’s time to go home, she doesn’t.”

From Dr. K, This series is plain silly and fun! Children will enjoy the spirited Junie B. Jones, who accepts a challenge, is not afraid to get in trouble, and is open to being vulnerable at times. She takes risks with what she says and does which is useful for children as far as decision-making goes-both good and bad.Additionally, the book provides many opportunities to talk about thinking skills such as self control and self awareness.

Talking Points: What can you learn about learning from your mistakes from this book?

What did you admire about any of the characters in the book?


Book Title: The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Author: Dav Pilkey

Book Type: First in a series of 12 as of August, 2015

Genre: Action & Adventure

Recommended Age Group: 7-10

Also Available as:    Audiobook, E-book

Thinking Skills Used: Self-control, planning, and focus

Book Summary:  From Amazon, “George and Harold have created the greatest superhero in the history of their elementary school–and now they’re going to bring him to life! Meet Captain Underpants! His true identity is so secret, even HE doesn’t know who he is!”

From Dr. K, The Captain Underpants series is hilarious. It has plenty of toilet bowl humor (hence the title) and most importantly it is very relatable. The characters get a good laugh out of joking about the teachers, school principal, lunch ladies, and other school staff that kids know and sometimes love. Best of all, the children are always outsmarting the adults, making it fun and ensuring that your child will want to read more so they can join in the fun. The illustrations are also really funny, for adults like me, who have an unrefined sense of humor. Skills such as focus and self control are used throughout the series.

Talking Points:What can you learn about learning from your mistakes from this book?


Book Title: Bad Kitty

Author: Nick Bruel

Book Type: First in a series of 6 as of  August 2012

Genre: Humor  

Recommended Age Group: 7-10

Also Available as:    Audiobook, E-book

Thinking Skills: Metacognition, planning, and response inhibition

Book Summary: From goodreads, “Bad Kitty is bad. Very bad. But she doesn’t always mean to be. Whether she is trying to be a good little kitty and eat her vegetables or be a quiet little kitty and behave at a birthday party, it seems that trouble finds a way to her. Children will fall in love with Bad Kitty–and be roaring with laughter at all of her antics.”

From Dr. K, These books star a cat, who is described as a bad kitty in this very lovable series. It is great for children who are cat lovers, and understand a bit of humor and satire. At times, throughout the series, readers get a look into how bad kitty thinks about the world in relation to politics and also get an excellent opportunity to learn new words. I found myself chuckling while I was reading  and I think that most parents who read along with their kids will do the same.

Talking Points:What did you learn from reading the book that you might be able to teach someone else?

What can you learn about learning from your mistakes from this book?


Book Title: Who Was series

Author: Various authorships

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

Recommended Age Group: 8-14

Also Available as:    Audiobook, E-book, Whispersync

Thinking Skills Used: Task Persistence, Sustained attention, and Flexibility

Book Summary: From Penguin Random House, “A series of illustrated biographies for young readers featuring significant historical figures, including artists, scientists, and world leaders.”

From Dr. K, This is a biographical series by a variety of authors and published by Penguin Workshop. I have read a couple of the books and found them to be very detailed and descriptive of some of the complexities of an individual’s life. There is also a parallel series titled, What Was that describes different events and historical issues such as the Titanic, the Holocaust, and the World Cup. These are great for kids who like to learn facts and want to learn about historical figures and events as well as current events. This book series is so popular that it is now a Netflix Original adaptation.

Talking Points: What did you admire about any of the characters in the book?

Are there any skills or abilities that the main character used in the book that you would like to improve in your real life?


Book Title: Goosebumps

Author: R. L. Stine

Book Type: First in a series of 62 as of April 2015

Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, thriller

Recommended Age Group: 8-14

Also Available as:    Audiobook, E-book, Whispersync   

Thinking Skills Used: Planning, Self-Control, Focus

Book Summary: From Amazon, “Dr. Brewer is doing a little plant-testing in his basement. Nothing to worry about. Harmless, really. But Margaret and Casey Brewer are worried about their father. Especially when they…meet…some of the plants he is growing down there. Then they notice that their father is developing plant-like tendencies. In fact, he is becoming distinctly weedy-and seedy. Is it just part of their father’s “harmless” experiment? Or has the basement turned into another little shop of horrors?”

From Dr. K.  There are 62 Goosebump books as of 2018, so there are many to choose from, if your child likes the series. On the other hand, I literally had goosebumps reading Night of the Living Dummy and wasn’t sure I wanted to finish it before going to bed. It was scary! When an author can convince you that a dummy might actually be alive and evil, he’s doing a good job-if you want to be scared. As you might have determined, I am not a big fan of scary books or movies, but many kids have become avid readers because the excitement of a scary book or movie keep them engaged. For example, I have seen  a lot of kids who were generally not interested in reading devour Stephen King books. But, if you have an anxious or easily frightened child I’d keep them from these books. But if you have a non reader, who loves excitement and risk, these might be the best way to get him reading.

Talking Points: Were there any “bad guys” and what did they do?

What can you learn about learning from your mistakes from this book?

Still having trouble getting your kids to pick up a book? See our strategies for encouraging your kids to read over the summer.



Featured image: Flickr user Sam Greenhalgh

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