Happy mother and three pretty daughters reading outside in the sunshine - concept of read aloud books or books for summer

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There’s really nothing that I love more than to find an amazing read aloud children’s book to share with my boys. And my latest search is on for page turner books to fill our summer! 

I love seeing their little faces when one or both of them falls in love with the story and they plead for me not to stop! The favorite plea is, “But mom…it’s just getting to the really good part.”

And apparently any time I’m ready to stop reading, it’s just gotten to the good part!

Two images of happy mother and three pretty daughters outside on picnic blanket reading outside in the sunshine - concept of read aloud books or books for summer

I am a firm believer in the many benefits of reading anything aloud – books, short stories, poetry, or anything else that’s interesting. But, as a mom, my favorite benefit is that reading stories aloud builds a bond with my boys. And as we’re building that bond, it creates a wonderful, safe space for some really interesting and meaty conversations that we would never get to have without the read aloud stories that spawned them.

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And let’s not forget the myriad of educational benefits:

“Reading aloud is one of the most important things parents can do with their children. Reading aloud builds many important foundational skills, introduces vocabulary, provides a model of fluent, expressive reading, and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about.” (reading aloud)

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How I Selected These Read Aloud Books For Summer

I’ve started planning for our hot, humid (sometimes unbearable) days of summer. I have an addiction to healthy love of indie bookstores with their shelves of beautifully curated books. So I have so much fun curating my own list of books TBR (to be read).

And I’ve found more than one great summer read – I’m here to share a dozen terrific pager turners, beach reads, or just plain good old bedtime reads!

I research on-line, talk to friends, talk to my kids’ friends, and even chat up our local librarian, local indie bookstore owners, and friendly teachers to find out what they’re reading right now as well as what they love.

Sometimes, I even start with a title or cover art that grabs me. And when I dig deeper into the book, I find that it seems amazing!

I always want to choose books for summer that are likely to lead to great conversation! We enjoy a mix of light-hearted humor, books with a lesson to share, at least one book with a message of social justice, and each story needs to enthrall me just as much as they do my 8 and 11 year olds.

I’ve picked each book for a different reason, and I’ve organized them below based on how I selected each one.

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Read Aloud Books That Connect With Something Familiar

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book II: The Hidden Gallery (Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, 2) by Maryrose Wood. Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, “They must have been raised by wolves.” And, the Incorrigible children actually were.

But, thanks to the efforts of Miss Penelope Lumley, their plucky governess, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia are much more like children than wolf pups now. They are accustomed to wearing clothes. They hardly ever howl at the moon. And for the most part, they resist the urge to chase squirrels up trees.

We’ve read The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling (Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, 1) and none of us wanted to put it down! So this choice was a no brainer!

Pax by Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen. Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be—with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own. . . .

So there was something so lovely and familiar about the cover art. And then it hit me – Jon Klassen. Jon Klassen, is the beloved author of I Want My Hat Back, We Found a Hat, and This Is Not My Hat, as well as tremendous collaborations with Mac Barnett (Circle, Square (Shape Trilogy), Triangle (Shape Trilogy), Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Irma S and James H Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature (Awards)), Extra Yarn, The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, and Lemony Snickett (The Dark (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards))).

The story sounds lovely; my youngest adores foxes in particular; and my oldest is a veritable animal whisperer. So, another no brainer!

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

One summer’s day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries – and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it’s because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that summer is because of Winn-Dixie.

My oldest son read this several years ago on his own. He loved it so much, he was more than happy to include it as a read aloud this summer. He’s looking forward to sharing the reading with me! That was one reason to select it, and then just the overwhelming talent of author Kate DiCamillo. From the Mercy Watson (6 Book Series) on up, she is definitely a family favorite.

This one was a toss up with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which remains on my TBR list.

Read Aloud Books Just For Fun

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon.

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.

Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade–exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets–secrets so big they could ruin everything.

In addition to having great reviews, this book just looks fun. I anticipate somewhat of a character study of Styx who appears uber cool on the outside – but who may have lots of layers of interest to peel back as we learn more about him!

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (Family Fletcher Series) by Dana Allison Levy. The start of the school year is not going as the Fletcher brothers hoped. Each boy finds his plans for success veering off in unexpected and sometimes disastrous directions. And at home, their miserable new neighbor complains about everything. As the year continues, the boys learn the hard and often hilarious lesson that sometimes what you least expect is what you come to care about the most.

This sounds like a book I can relate to – a family having misadventures! I can’t wait to see where this one takes us!

Irresistible Title or Cover Art

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaimon. “I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: t h u m m t h u m m. Then looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

I found this book on-line and loved the cover art as well as the title. It was still laying in my mental “maybe” pile. And then something happened…

Photo of Bookstore shop sign for Nevermore Books

On spring break, I was in a terrific little indie bookstore called Nevermore Books. Now, this shop is small and highly curated. And there it was…Fortunately, the Milk…front and center with the middle grade novels. I asked the owner about it and she said it was fabulous and she was holding a copy in the back for her grandson. Sold! Another one of our family read aloud books for summer chosen!

The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson. All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with.

But that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world . . . carrying you with it. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties — and no playmates that stick around for more than a day.

This one had me at the title…The House with Chicken Legs On It????????? And the cover art sealed the deal!

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead.

It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.

It turns out she’s right.

Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who―or what―he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.

Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.

So, ummmmmm… This one might be a little embarrassing. My reasoning behind my selection of Bob is nothing noble, academic, or even remotely literary.

My boys saw a random YouTube video called “My Name is Bob.” It is truly the silliest thing you’ll ever see. But my boys have been cracking up and joking about “Bob” ever since. So, naturally, when I saw a book titled Bob, I knew they would show immediate interest. Beyond that, it sounds amazing.

Lingering Too Long On My TBR List

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall.  This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

You know the feeling you might get if you were, say, the only person who had never seen an episode of “Seinfeld?” That’s the feeling I have about the Penderwicks. I have not yet met this charming family and it seems like one of the most perfect books for summer.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal) by Kelly Barnhill. Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge…

This story sounds so beautiful and original that it’s been on my list of read aloud books for quite some time. The reviews pushed me over the edge. And I love the plot’s air of mystery!

Social Justice Selection

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined.

While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

As a former civil rights attorney, it’s important to me to expose my boys to important human rights issues of the day. And the reviews and awards on this one won me over. I also know that as one of our books for summer, we will have plenty of time to have meaningful conversations about what’s happening in the book.

Read Aloud Books Chose “Just Because”

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

When Jack Baker’s father sends him from his home in Kansas to attend a boys’ boarding school in Maine, Jack doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not Early Auden, the strangest of boys. Early keeps to himself, reads the number pi as a story, and refuses to accept truths others take for granted. Jack, feeling lonely and out of place, connects with Early, and the two become friends.

During a break from school, the boys set out for the Appalachian Trail on a quest for a great black bear. As Jack and Early travel deeper into the mountains, they meet peculiar and dangerous characters, and they make some shocking discoveries. But their adventure is only just beginning.

This one truly just intrigued me so much, I couldn’t skip it. Chalk this one up to good ole’ curiosity!

Runner’s Up Books for Summer

I’ve also selected some “Plan B” books for summer. Because, you know. Stuff happens. Or maybe nobody can get into the book.

I’m not one to force us through a book that isn’t working for somebody. We will always stick through enough to know that we gave it a fair chance.

But after that – there’s just no need to stick with a book we aren’t loving. There are too many amazing books out there that we will love!

So here are some amazing “Plan B” books if one of the ones above isn’t as enjoyable as I anticipate it will be!

The Year of Billy MillerThe Year of Billy MillerThe Year of Billy MillerThe Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (1987-06-01)The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (1987-06-01)The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (1987-06-01)The WitchesThe WitchesThe WitchesSong for a WhaleSong for a WhaleSong for a WhaleWhen You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery)When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery)When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery)PaperboyPaperboyPaperboy


When To Read Aloud

I used to worry that there wouldn’t be enough time for read aloud books – especially in the summer months when friends are out of school, the pool is open, and there are a million other things to do.

But, I know when I tie our reading to something that we always do…no matter what…then we always get to our read aloud books. I have chosen to tie our reading to breakfast.

So, while the boys eat breakfast, I read aloud. I eat after they are done and go outside to play.

Dont’ Forget to Pin This To Come Back To Again and Again!

Two images of happy mother and three pretty daughters outside on picnic blanket reading outside in the sunshine - concept of read aloud books or books for summer