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31 Great Summer Reading Books For Kids

The books range in reading level for ages 4-14.

As summer approaches, one thing on parents’ minds is the dreaded “summer slide”—as the decline of students’ skills over summer break has come to be known.

As real as the summer learning loss can be, there are kids who avoid this seasonal slide and even improve their skills during the school break—particularly when it comes to reading and math. The difference can be as minor as frequent trips to the library. According to a recent study, students who participate in library-sponsored summer reading programs scored higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the new school year and returned to school ready to learn.

Loading your child up with engaging reads is an effective way to keep those skills strong and avoid boredom on those hot, unscheduled days at home. This captivating collection of titles for kids—elementary-aged through middle school—is the perfect place to start.

Several of these suggested titles come from the National Spelling Bee/Kindle “Great Words, Great Works” recommended reading list, which features books that are not only classic reads but contain words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee Study List. These books are denoted with an asterisk (*).

Bonus tip: Download the National Spelling Bee titles to your kid’s Kindle for extra summer learning. They can use the e-reader to view definitions of words, create instant flashcards and track their daily reading to earn milestone badges.

1. “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo

Ten-year-old Opal, whose mother left when she was little, isn’t happy that her preacher father moved them to a small Florida town. When she finds a mangy mutt in a local supermarket (and names him Winn-Dixie, after the store), things finally start to look up for Opal in this moving, heartwarming book.

Best for: ages 9-12

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2. “Frederick” by Leo Lionni *

Frederick is a mouse who lives with his family in an abundant field. During the summer, all of the mice begin to store corn, grains and straw to prepare for the cold winter months. All of the mice except Frederick, that is. Instead, Frederick collects things such as rays of sun, rainbows and words. Although the others think he is foolish, they come to learn that everyone’s contribution counts.

Best for: ages 6-9

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3. “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton

As they stitch a quilt together, Kay’s aunt tells her the story of 14-year-old Arrietty Clock who lived with her parents under the floorboards of a house. The Clocks were “borrowers,” six-inch tall people who survive by borrowing objects from the big people they call “human beans.” Like Kay, children everywhere can’t help but get caught up in Arrietty’s adventures.

Best for: ages 7-10

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4. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White

You are probably familiar with this charming tale of a young girl named Fern, the runt piglet she saves and names Wilbur and an incredible spider named Charlotte. Although funny and delightful, this summer read does have its sadder moments, so consider your child’s sensitivity level when offering this book.

Best for: ages 8-12

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5. “The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies” by Beatrix Potter *

In this follow-up to “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” Benjamin Bunny and his wife have six little rabbits known as the Flopsy Bunnies. Although they are kind and loving parents, they sometimes struggle to feed their large family. The little bunnies take it upon themselves to find food when Mr. McGregor, who wants to skin them for a coat for his wife, captures them in this age-appropriate page-turner.

Best for: ages 3-7

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6. “The Door by the Staircase” by Katherine Marsh

Ever since her mother and brother died in a fire, 12-year-old Mary has lived a lonely and painful life in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies. One day after her plan to escape is thwarted, she is adopted by the mysterious Madame Z. Everything seems perfect until Mary and her new friend Jacob discover Madame Z may not be who she seems.

Best for: ages 8-12

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7. “A Bad Case of the Stripes” by David Shannon

Even though she loves lima beans, Camilla Cream will not eat them because her friends say they are not cool. One day, she wakes up covered in colorful stripes. As her classmates tease Camilla and doctors try to cure her, she breaks out in stars, polka dots and eventually blends right in with the walls until a wise old woman tells her the simple cure. This colorful book will amuse young children all summer.

Best for: ages 4-8

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8. “Ivy & Bean” by Annie Barrows

When Ivy moves in across the street, Bean is sure they won’t be friends. They are just too different. However, when Ivy helps Bean get away from her sister, who is trying to get Bean in trouble, a friendship blossoms between the unlikely pair. Kids who enjoy this book can read the entire series over the summer.

Best for: 7-9 years

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9. “Stuart Little” by E. B. White *

When the Little family somehow finds themselves with a mouse for a son, they take it in stride and help young Stuart adapt in the large world he calls home. Stuart has many adventures throughout the book, including a model sailboat race in Central Park and his friendship with a bird named Margalo, who ultimately saves his life.

Best for: ages 8-12

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10. “Matilda” by Roald Dahl

Gifted and sweet, Matilda goes largely unnoticed by her less-than-loving parents. Things only get worse when she goes to school. Fortunately, her aptly-named teacher, Miss Honey, helps Matilda discover how special she is and encourages her to create the life she dreams about.

Best for: ages 8-12

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11. “The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen *

A less-than-upright nobleman hatches a plan to quell the discontented people of the kingdom. He decides to find an impersonator to take the place of the long-lost prince, choosing four orphans who must compete for the role or risk losing their lives. Readers will have difficulty putting this adventure-packed book down.

Best for: ages 9-12

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12. “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes

Before she started going to school, Chrysanthemum loved her name. Now, she wants to change it because her classmates make fun of it. Even her parents cannot console the little mouse.  Everything changes when the kids’ favorite teacher says she has the perfect name picked out for her new baby. Even preschoolers will be captivated by this charming read.

Best for: ages 4-8

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13. “Fortunately, the Milk” by Neil Gaiman *

In this silly and vividly illustrated story, the children’s mother goes out of town for work and their father is left in charge. On the first morning, the family runs out of milk so Dad heads to the store. When he finally returns after what seems like an exceptionally long time, he explains what happened. His adventure begins with being abducted by aliens and ends with him saving the world… thanks to the milk.

Best for: ages 8-12

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14. “Pippi Longstocking” by Astrid Lindgren

Tommy and Annika Settergren lead a happy but uneventful life until 9-year-old Pippi moves in next door. Claiming that her mother is dead and her father lost at sea, the young girl moves into the home with only a monkey and a horse. The three children become fast friends and life is never boring again.

Best for: ages 8-12

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15. “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed” by Emily Pearson *

When Mary decides to give some fresh-picked wild blueberries to a neighbor, she starts a chain reaction of kindness with ripples that seem never-ending. After Mrs. Bishop makes and shares a batch of muffins, her recipients go on to spread kindness to others they meet. Mary might be an ordinary little girl, but she learns that even children can help make the world a better place.

Best for: ages 4-10

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16. “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume

Every kid with a younger sibling will root for and commiserate with nine-year-old Peter in this classic summer read. His younger brother “Fudge” is always causing trouble and usually getting away with it. And then there’s the matter of Sheila Tubman, Peter’s bossy classmate and neighbor who always seems to show up at the worst times. It’s tough being a fourth grader.

Best for: ages 8-12

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17. “The Girl from Everywhere” by Heidi Heilig *

Young Nix lives on her father’s time-traveling ship, which can go anywhere—real or imagined—provided her father has a map. Although the crew has been on many adventures, this one could change everything. If her father can find the map that will take them to a time before her mother died, Nix might cease to exist. History, time travel, mythology and pirates… this book has it all.

Best for: ages 12 and up

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18. “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein

How cool would it be to spend the night in an amazing library designed by a famous, eccentric game inventor? Kyle is about to find out, because he is one of 12 kids chosen to do just that. The twist is that they have to solve puzzles to escape the library without using the main doors. Kids who enjoyed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” will love reading this book over summer break.

Best for: ages 8-12

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19. “The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown *

When a hurricane shipwrecks a robot named Roz on an island inhabited only by wildlife, the animal residents are terrified. Roz struggles to survive on her own when she finds an orphaned gosling and decides to raise it. Over time, the other creatures accept her as part of their community and Roz finds a place where she belongs.

Best for: ages 6-9

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20. “The Penderwicks:  A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy” by Jeanne Birdsall

This won’t be an ordinary summer vacation for the four Penderwick sisters. Their widower father has rented a cottage on an estate called Arundel Hall. However, haughty Mrs. Tifton is displeased with her son’s friendship with the “common” family and seeks to end it in the first book of the Penderwicks series.

Best for: ages 8-12

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21. “The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler Warner *

Some books stand the test of time, and “The Boxcar Children” is an excellent example. When their parents die, neighbors plan to send Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny to their grandfather, whom they’ve never met. Thinking he is an evil man, the children run away and make a home in an abandoned boxcar until one of the children becomes gravely ill. The siblings discover that the unknown is not always as bad as it seems.

Best for: ages 7-10

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22. “Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras)” by Asia Citro

Zoey and her cat Sassafras love to solve problems. When a sick baby dragon shows up in the backyard, they are not sure what to do. The pair is determined to save little Marshmallow—and the other magical creatures who show up needing help—using scientific theories and experiments. This book boosts young children’s STEM knowledge as well as their reading skills.

Best for: ages 5-9

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23. “Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition” by Margot Lee Shetterly *

Four African-American female mathematicians at NASA were known as human calculators, helping to launch rockets and eventually astronauts into space, yet they were virtually unknown. Based on the real-life stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, this book introduces tween readers to the Civil Rights movement, gender equality and the Space Race.

Best for: ages 8-12

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24. “Amelia Bedelia Means Business” by Herman Parish

When the very literal Amelia’s parents say a new bike will cost her an arm and a leg, she is mystified. She decides to raise money instead. Her ventures include a lemonade sit (she doesn’t want everyone to stand) and grooming a dog to be show-ready (does a suit and tie seem appropriate?). Giggles will abound when kids take in this book or you read it together.

Best for: ages 6-10

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25. “Peak” by Roland Smith *

Fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello is obsessed with climbing. After he is arrested for climbing a skyscraper, Peak must choose between juvie and going to live with his formerly absent and entirely selfish father. When his father announces that he wants him to climb Everest, Peak must decide if the risk is worth the rush and whether or not he can trust his dad.

Best for: ages 12 and up

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26. “Save Me a Seat” by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan *

Ravi is the new kid at school all the way from Bangalore. Joe is not new, but he is large and awkward. Ravi and Joe have opposite wishes: while Ravi wants popular kid Dillon to notice him, Joe wants to avoid Dillon’s unkind attention. Written by two authors with alternating points of view, readers will relate to the moving, humorous book.

Best for: ages 8-12

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27. “Princess Cora and the Crocodile” by Laura Amy Schlitz

Cora wants a day off from all of her boring princess duties, so she writes a letter to her fairy godmother (as any princess would). The fairy sends an unexpected gift: an enormous crocodile. Chasing after her new pet and attempting to make him mind, Cora spends a crazy day getting dirty, breaking rules and finding her own voice. An ideal summer chapter book for early readers, pre-readers will delight in the abundant illustrations as well.

Best for: ages 4-8

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28. “Moo: A Novel” by Sharon Creech *

Not only does 12-year-old Reena have to learn to adapt from living in a big city to life in a small town on the coast of Maine, but she soon learns her parents have volunteered her (along with her little brother) to help an elderly neighbor on her farm. Initially, Reena dislikes grouchy Mrs. Falala and her stinky cow, Zora. As she spends more time with them both, however, she discovers there is more than meets the eye.

Best for: ages 8-12

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29. “Finding Perfect” by Elly Swartz *

When 12-year-old Molly’s mom has to take a long distance job and her dad is struggling to hold things down at home, Molly tries hard to control what she can. She aligns her glass animal figures in a seamless line; keeps her pencils sharpened to precise points; and maintains a spotless bedroom. However, her need for control and perfection start to take over and Molly doesn’t know how to stop. Learning to ask for help is her hardest and most important lesson.

Best for: ages 8-12

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30. “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson *

Jim Hawkins is a boy at his father’s inn when a rough seaman named Billy Bones comes to stay. Bones tells Jim that he knows where the treasure of the infamous Captain Flint is buried. After both Jim’s ailing father and Bones die, Jim decides to find the treasure himself in this classic adventure read.

Best for: ages 10-14

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31. “Amber Brown Is Not A Crayon” by Paula Danziger *

Justin is Amber’s very best friend. She cannot remember a time when they didn’t sit next to each other in class or help one another with homework. She never calls him “Justin Time” and he never teases that, “Amber Brown is not a crayon,” but now Justin is moving away. Worse yet, the friends have had a fight and Amber worries they won’t make up before moving day. Kids will want to read all of the engaging Amber Brown books after getting to know the relatable character.

Best for: ages 7-10

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RELATED: The True Story Behind Iconic Children’s Book ‘Love You Forever’ Will Break Your Heart

Between mornings at day camp, afternoons at the neighborhood pool and entire days spent playing video games, make sure your children’s summer includes plentiful trips to the library and copious kids’ books such as these. Not only will their boredom vanish, but they could head back to school in the fall even smarter than when they left.