What to read?
As summer rolls around, no doubt you're looking for some good reads for you and your child. In a post I wrote a couple weeks ago, I talked about the dreaded "summer slide" - the loss of educational skills your kid inevitably suffers if she does not read over the summer. Then I highlighted some really fun incentive programs and ideas on motivating your kids to read.
So now you're all geared up and ready to go. What do you pick out once you arrive at your local library or book store?
I am a firm believer in allowing kids to pick their own books. If you force your child to read something you think he should read, you run the risk of turning him off to the fun of it. But...
I hear those of you who are sick of your kids reading Captain Underpants for the thirteenth time or picking up the Sponge Bob beginning readers when they're in the sixth grade. I know you want them to read something of substance and quality, something that will challenge them.
Am I right?
When encouraging your kids to pick books, start with quality. There is nothing wrong with them picking up an "easy" book or re-reading a favorite story, but every once in a while, it's good to try something new.
Quality Over Quantity
If your kid is resistant, try letting her pick from a group of books proven to be quality literature. Start with award winners. There are tons of book lists available featuring literature at all levels recognized for either its quality, craft, or content. The Clemson University Library has a fabulous list of children's award-winning books, categorized by award and reading level. Even if your child wants to "read down" a level or two, you can be sure that they'll be reading something with substance. Check out books from some of these notable lists:
The American Library Association touts its Association for Library Service to Children, which is a division dedicated to choosing book of exceptional quality and creativity aimed at inspiring children. Books here are categorized by age: Young Readers (preschoo- age 7), Middle Readers (grades 3-5), and Older Readers (grades 6-8). Some of my favorites (books I have personally read and enjoyed) from that list include:
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim. Illus. by E. B. Lewis
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan.
The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz
The Newbery Medal notes a specific author who makes an outstanding contribution to children's literature. There are award winners as well as honorable mentions. Bookworm for Kids boasts a list of these winners from the past several decades with a short description and notation with regard to each winners' target age/level. Books that I've loved from this list include:
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamill
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Coretta Scott King Award highlights African-American authors or illustrators who demonstrate and celebrate the rich culture and experience of African-Americans. The award began in 1970 and this website offers titles and a brief synopsis for each winner. My top picks here are:
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christoper Myers
Okay...so I'm quickly realizing that I could go through scores more of award lists and probably note hundreds of my favs from each of them, so I'll keep it easy on your eyes and recommend just two more lists (and no books - for that you'll just have to send me a message.)
Definitely check out the Pura Belpre Award, which goes to the Latino/Latina writer or illustrator "whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth." (ALA website) One of my favorites already mentioned, The Only Road, appears on this list as does several other books.
Finally, if your child relates better to non-fiction work, then you'll need to look at the Robert F. Sibert Award given to authors and illustrators who produce "the most distinguished informational book" in the U.S. I admit, I am a sucker for a good non-fiction book, but most of those that I read are grown-up in nature. From this list, I've only devoured one title: Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; but I can promise you that many of these winners will make their way through my home this summer.
Hopefully some of these lists will help you or your kiddo choose some great stuff to read this summer. Let me know what you chose and how you liked it! I'd love to share it with my other followers on the blog or Facebook!