What to Read This Summer: A List for Kids and Mamas


Books are a big deal in our house. We have books in just about every room of the house, and not just books, book shelves loaded with books, packed with books, aching under the weight of books. And there are boxes of books still unpacked in the basement from when we moved. And we also have 3 kindles.

What to Read This Summer: A List for Kids and Mamas | Duluth Moms Blog

So, yes, we have a lot of books.

When I was growing up, my mom always signed me and my siblings up for the summer reading program at the library. We lived in town, so we walked weekly to get stamps on our reading cards for the books we’d read the week before; I don’t even remember if there were prizes to be earned for reading. As I got older I biked almost daily to the library. I’d park my bike in the shade, walk up the tall steps and slip into its cool, dark confines and breathe in the musty smells of old books. The books I returned to the big wooden counter that stood in the middle of the library made a deafening noise in the quiet. My library card was a shrimpy-pink color and I kept it shoved deep in my pocket and although it was protected by a small plastic envelope it was crinkled and limp from all the use it got.

In addition to our weekly jaunts to the library, every day of summer vacation, we had an hour of reading time after lunch. We could sit wherever we wanted, on a blanket under a tree, on the couch, in the hammock outside, and we could read whatever we wanted – books, magazines, the newspaper – as long as we read for an hour. I never complained about that hour, and truthfully, I probably read for more than an hour most days. I worked my way through all the Nancy Drew books, the Sweet Valley High series, and every Baby-Sitters Club book ever written. Beverly Cleary was like a surrogate Aunt to me and I read all the Ramona Quimby books several times over. I wished Beezus was my older sister. Every summer I’d work my way through the Little House on the Prairie series from start to finish. I have a vivid memory of coming home one summer afternoon – I don’t even know where I had been – and my mom had stopped at one of our neighbor’s garage sale and picked up a stack of books for me. In that stack was Staring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, my first introduction to Judy Blume. I laid down in my small, hot room that I shared with both of my sisters, a fan blowing right in my face (because we had no air conditioning) and devoured that book. And then took myself to the library to find as many Judy Blume books as I could carry home and still balance on my banana-seat bicycle.

The first thing we look for when we move to a new town (and we’ve moved a few times) is the library. Right at the top of the list of getting electric started and trash pick-up scheduled is always signing up for library cards. My son is going to be 7 this summer and we’ve decided that he’s probably ready to have his own library card. He can hardly wait for summer vacation so he can sign up for his own card and carry it around in his velcro wallet like a responsible young man. We’ll most likely sign up for the summer reading program while we’re there and then we’ll proceed to bike at least once a week to get our reading chart checked off.

Today, in honor of all things books and also getting your summer reading list going, here are the top books that get the most love on our bookshelves right now:

What to Read This Summer: A List for Kids and Mamas | Duluth Moms Blog

Smallish humans (birth – pre-k) | Most of these are board books, which are so nice for young readers because they’re virtually indestructible (although truthfully, some of our more frequently read board books end up with very loose spines after a while and there are some pages with teeth marks from slobbery teething humans).

  • Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyer
  • Good Night Loon by Abe Sauer
  • The Belly Button Book by Susan Boynton
  • Quiet & Loud by Leslie Patricelli
  • Pride and Prejudice: A Baby Lit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams
  • Good Night, Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury

What to Read This Summer: A List for Kids and Mamas | Duluth Moms Blog

Elementary aged | These are read-aloud chapter books for younger elementary aged kids but can be solo reading for an older child. Do not neglect the classics! My older daughter used to roll her eyes when I suggested she add some classics to her summer reading list (although she did, albeit grudgingly), but my younger son is devouring Robin Hood. 

  • Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
  • The Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Frog & Toad by Arnold Lobel
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Robin Hood by J. Walker McSpadden
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Judy Moody Series & the Stink series by Megan McDonald
  • The Who Am I series of books by assorted authors
  • The Emily Windsnap Series by Liz Kessler
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulson
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Mama’s | We need quiet reading time, too, right?! Yes, we do. Here’s what’s on my Kindle reading list for this summer:

  • It’s okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort
  • Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the front lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by: Peggy Orenstein
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
  • It Was Me All Along: A Memoir by Andie Mitchell
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • They Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

What to Read This Summer: A List for Kids and Mamas | Duluth Moms Blog

A quick note to the mamas in the trenches: when my son was born almost 7 summers ago, I lamented the fact that I couldn’t read as readily as I’d used to – or at all, really. For one, it’s hard to concentrate when you’re feeding a human constantly, and when you’re not doing that, you’re doing laundry, and when you’re not doing either of those two things, you’re staring at their perfect little faces because goodness tiny babies change so quickly that if we don’t stare, we’ll miss it. Or, more likely, you’re falling into bed exhausted. There’s no time for reading with teeny tiny humans – and sometimes even with smallish humans. And I grieved that, because reading is as much a part of my day as coffee and wine. But it does get easier. The ability to read more than 2 pages in a single sitting before falling asleep and drooling all over your chapter will return (I promise). We scratch out time for ourselves as we can; if that means that we take those 2 pages or 5 minutes or our baby’s nap time and give ourselves the grace to have a little quiet time of our own with a book, let’s together not feel guilty about the load of laundry that has been cycling in the dryer all day long. Self-care is important. Words are important. And when our small humans see us reading? They want to do it, too.