Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Reading for Second Grade

It is summer break and parents have been asking for suggestions for their students.  Here are some suggestions that I sent specifically to a young girl going into second grade.  There is a fairly wide range of reading difficulty included in this list so you can find something that fits needs from emergent readers to those who feel comfortable with a bigger reading challenge.  I have included fiction (with a separate section for series books) as well as non-fiction. 

The goal of the summer should be to have fun with reading.  I can not plead enough that you not worry so much about what is being read or even if reading takes place every day as you are about finding something that brings joy.  No one will being reading the classics without a firm foundation and that the secure knowledge that there is pleasure in reading.  Leave books around where they are easy to pick up and read.  Read to children and then stop at the exciting part so they have to finish by themselves.  Just read to your kids, whether they read alone or not.  In addition to inspiring your budding reader, you also get a special time with a very wonderful child.

Let your kids see you read for pleasure.  If mom and dad (I have read a lot of literature that suggests that dad has the greatest influence on encouraging kids to read) read for the sheer joy of it and kids see them doing it, those kids are going to sense that reading is a good idea.  If parents are too busy to read, it doesn't take long for children to get the message that there are more important and more enjoyable things to do than read.

Finally, encourage kids to play outside.  The fresh air and creativity will stimulate areas of their brains that often get neglected and any mental stimulation will make reading (and most of the rest of life) easier and more enjoyable.

Here is the list aimed primarily at readers ages 6 to 8.

The #1 Train Spotter and Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke are very popular with people just beginning to read chapter books by them self. They both have sequels.   The Train Spotter books have a detective bent to them.  Anna Hibiscus is a little easier to read and is the story of a young girl living in Africa.  Her mother is not from Africa which offers opportunities to discuss cultural differences in a pleasant, familial setting.

Ivy and Bean by Ann Barrows has grown into a good sized series about two little girls who were reluctant to become friends but soon find that they have much in common.  They are nice kids with a generous dose of mischievousness in their lives. Their adventures will seem very familiar to most girls aged 6 to 10.

Rabbit and Robot:  The Sleepover by Cece Bell will be an easy read as it is a first chapter book.  It is a cute story about a rabbit and a robot who can't seem to find the perfect thing to do on a sleepover because they have very different personalities and interests.  Of course they eventually find the perfect way to enjoy each other's company.  I found this book to be very enjoyable with some good surprises from the usual friends-getting-along story.

The Pain and The Great One by Judy Blume are great for a first introduction to the humor and real feel of childhood interests for readers not quite ready for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  A brother and sister give humor to the complications of deciding who is bothering whom.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel is a series that includes both picture books and easy, highly-illustrated chapter books about, you guessed it, a bad kitty.  Luckily the kitty is also pretty lovable and has fun adventures.

Beverly Cleary books like those about Ramona Quimby and her friends are classics of children's literature.  Ramona may have been the first of the now popular genre of realistic fiction about young, strong girls. They are certainly some of the best books in this genre to this day.  Ramona and Beezus and their friends have become a part of our literary culture so I think every child deserves to have exposure to them.

Amber Brown by Paula Danzinger is featured in a growing series.  She fits nicely into the realistic fiction about lower elementary age girls.  Amber's parents divorce in this series which may make them especially relevant for some families.

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo  now have more than one book.  These quirky friends like each other despite their differences and they have a good time together going on simple, enjoyable adventures.

Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DeTerlizzi is a lovely fantasy of a boy who meets a dragon.  Much to his surprise (he has heard stories about dragons all his life), the dragon is not mean and scary.  How is going to convince everyone that this dragon is not going to destroy their homes?

Edward Eager was my favorite author when I was young.  They may be still a read-aloud for many who are entering second grade, but what a great read aloud these books are.  All of them are great tales of simple magic that takes four siblings on adventures that carry them far from any possibility of boredom.  My favorite is still Half Magic, but you can't go wrong with any of Eager's book.

21 Fairmont Avenue by Tomi DePaola is the first in a collection of stories based on DePaola's life.  If his picture books about his childhood are popular, these are perfect for a second grader who is ready for a little more information and interesting stories, all accompanied with DePaola's familiar art.

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is another children's classic that appeals to children of today as much as it did when it was first published in 1948.  This first of the trilogy is the story of a boy saving a baby dragon who is being used by a bunch of wild animals as a ferry.

Clara Lee and the Apple Blossom Dream by Jenny Han brings a multi-cultural twist to the story of a little girl who wants to be her small town's Little Miss Apple Pie.  Can a Korean girl win this coveted title while still honoring her own culture?

Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Harnett tells of a little girl whose hands keep getting her in trouble, especially around her little brother.  She names those hands Sadie and Ratz so they can take the blame when things go wrong.  This is an early chapter book and a great way to start the summer reading.  Just thinking of this book makes me smile.  Parents will enjoy it as much or more than the young reader.

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes is simply the story of the daily life of a young boy.  There is not heart racing peaks and valleys of activity but it is a charming story that would make a good read aloud for those who are just beginning to read chapter books.  More accomplished readers will enjoy it by themselves.

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins appeals to the child in me.  I love stories where toys come alive and the toys in this story are interesting things like a stingray, a buffalo, and a ball known as Plastic.  The format of being a collection of stories is also a good introduction to the joys of short stories and they are easy to read in a single setting.  There are more books in this series awaiting your eager reader.

Lady Lollipop and George Speaks by Dick King-Smith are two of his easier to read books. Lollipop is a pig that is presented to a very spoiled princess.  The pig and her dedicated swineherd help teach the princess some social graces.  George, in the other book, is a new born baby brother who swears his older sister to silence when he reveals that he can already talk and make some interesting comments about the world around him and the oddities of adults.

Ling and Ting:  Not Exactly the Same  by Grace Lin tells of identical twins who prove that they are not identical in all ways.  They are charming little girls so it is no surprise that there are more books about them.  The books are easier reads and good for readers who are not sure they really want to tackle a more difficult book.

Ruby Lu:  Brave and True by Lenore Look is different from other young girl stories because Ruby is Chinese-American who goes to Chinese school and deals with other cultural issues.  She is also a very typical young girl who deals with school, friendships, and other issues that will be familiar to everyone.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald has long held a reputation for being a great read-aloud as well as a book that kids love to read and re-read.  Mrs.  Piggle-Wiggle is a sweet, grandmotherly woman who has a cure for common childhood ailments like bossiness or not be able to share.  There is enough fun in these stories that they never seem preachy.  Each chapter tells its own story about children who are cured of their ailments in a pleasant and funny manner.

Akimbo and the Elephants by Alexander McCall-Smith is just one of the books in this series about Akimbo, the son of a game warden in Kenya.  Akimbo wants to help his father which leads to some harrowing adventures as he battles to save animals. Yes, this is the same McCall-Smith who writes The Ladies Number One Detective Agency and other books for adults.

Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider is a beginning chapter book that details a father's attempts to get his son to try new foods.  Each new food option is more ridiculous than the one that came before.  I promise that parents will hear about the amazing ideas that are presented.  This is a very early chapter book.  If you have a picky eater in your family, this is an especially great read.


A-Z Mysteries and Calendar Mysteries by Rob Roy are good, short mysteries for newly independent readers.  There is enough mystery to keep the reader guessing while being short enough that they do not require a huge time commitment.  As you can guess by the series titles, there are several books available.

Andrew Lost  by  J. C. Greenberg is a series with a concept that will appeal to many readers.  Andrew creates a machine that accidentally shrinks him and his friend Judy down to an almost microscopic size.  Each, beginning with On the Dog, takes them on a new adventure.  The great part is the quantity of interesting scientific facts that are worked into the simple text and black and white illustrations.

The Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey find all kinds of creatures from aliens to witches behaving in amazing ways.  They are great fun.

Cam Janson by David Adler is a young girl detective with a knack for solving mysteries.  There are two levels of these books so an emergent reader can begin with the easier ones and then move easily into those for a more advanced reader.

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown has grown to be a series so kids can keep following this the adventure of this happy young lad who was accidentally flattened until he is the thickness of a piece of paper.  What child doesn't want to imagine be a kite or getting mailed to visit relatives?

My America by Mary Pope Osborne is a series of historical fiction written in diary format.  This form appeals to many readers.  Some readers are less than trilled to read diaries, so don't push if that is the case.

Oliver Moon by Sue Mongredian tells the adventures of a young wizard in training.  The books are funny and exciting and quick reads for the budding wizard in your family.

Ready, Freddy by Abby Klein is about a typical boy doing typical boy things.  They are full of humor and some adventure.

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo is a pig who is quite spoiled by her human family.  She may spend most of her time eating but that seems to help her be in the right place at the right time to solve problems, often problems she created.  The bright colored illustrations and large font make these chapter books that emergent readers can enjoy with little help from adults.

Geronimo Stilton by "Geronimo Stilton" appeals to many readers in no small part because of the bright illustrations and the fun that is had with text fonts.  They are also funny and filled with adventures.


Who Was.../Who Is... biographies by various authors  offer just the right amount of information and readable life story to keep kids coming back for more.  There are now 100 of these and I could keep most of them in circulation most of the time.  The kids I work with started with familiar people and were soon reading about people that were totally new to them just because they discovered a love of biographies.  Many of these readers then moved on to other biographies.

Usbourne Beginners offer a wide range of non-fiction topics with lots of bright photos and illustrations, solid information, and interesting side-bars/ They are perfect for someone just discovering the many joys of reading for information.

Poetry may also be a good choice for reading that seems easy but is filled with meaning and challenges.  Everyone loves Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, but don't miss others who are less well known like Douglas Florian, J. Patrick Lewis, and science related poetry of Joyce Sidman.  Explore the poetry section for more good reads.

Other non-fiction areas that are great for developing an interest in reading include, but are clearly not limited to, cookbooks, crafting books, and folk and fairy tales.

Finally, National Geographic's Weird But True series is appealing to all ages with bright illustrations and photographs to go with little known facts about just about everything.  They are generally one fact per page, making them great for travel and bathroom reading as well as for quizzing parents and siblings.

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