Summer Chapter Books


Ask an elementary or middle school teacher what they would like to see their students do to keep learning during the summer. The resounding answers would be:  READ!  KEEP READING!  READ SOME MORE!  READ EVERY DAY! 

But summer is also for fun. How do you make reading fun for those who don’t enjoy it?  Reading is a skill and we humans have more fun with a skill when we are successful. And how does one master a skill? Through practice, of course. As skills improve, so does the satisfaction of success. Remember learning to ride a bike? Pretty scary at first, but through practice came success and increased enjoyment. We need to provide opportunities for reading practice while maintaining the essence of a child’s summer: sun, fun, and family.

Why not make it a point to make reading practice fun and family-involved this summer? Find a dedicated time or place for reading. Be a reading role model. Read the same book as your child or grandchild and talk about it. Or ask questions and let your young reader explain their stories to you. Build a reading fort. Enter a summer reading contest. Audio books are a great addition to a car trip. Encourage reading under the covers by flashlight. Let your imagination run amok.. Who says practice has to be boring?

Helping your child pick a book to read is vital. If the book is too hard it defeats the purpose of the practice. An easy way to make sure that a book is one that can be read independently is the Five Finger Test. It’s easy. Have your child read the first page of a book they think they want to read. As they read, they tick off a finger for each word that they can’t read, or of which they don’t understand the meaning. Don’t include the names of people or places. If, on one page, there are more than 5 unknown words, save that book for later in the summer. Or better yet, read it to them. What’s better than knowing your important adult is also interested in the story you chose? It’s empowering. And don’t  worry if a book seems too easy. It’s still practice and all practice is valuable. Let their teachers worry about vocabulary levels and fluency and words-per-minute. (Trust me, they do pay attention to those skills) For you, summer reading should always be fun.

Besides being at an easy enough level for successful practice, the story has to captivate the reader in  order to make the reading enjoyable. Listed below are some books that I have read and I think middle grades (4-6) readers will enjoy. 

Survival and outdoor stories–I love these kinds of stories! They are fast paced and interesting. 

Red Fox Road, by Frances Greenslade–On a road trip from British Columbia to the Grand Canyon, Francie’s parents take a wrong turn and they are lost in the wilderness.

The Boy Who Met a Whale, by Nizrana Farook–A Sri Lankan  boy is swept up in a thrilling adventure that has kidnapping, treasure, pirates, and a huge blue whale.

The Mystery of Lake Kanakondah, by Karel Hayes–Alex knows he’s going to have a terrible summer when his parents change their vacation plans from the beach to an eerie, lonely lake.

Earthquake Terror, by Peg Kehret–Jonathan and his sister Abby must survive on their own after an earthquake disrupts a family camping trip in Northern California.

Terror at the Zoo, by Peg Kehret–Ellen and her little brother Corey are trapped in Seattle’s  Woodland Park zoo overnight. And they’re not alone!

Wild River, by Rodman Philbrick–A group of middle schoolers on a summer white-water rafting trip are isolated in the middle of the Montana wilderness. Do they have what it takes to survive?


Coming of age books that take place over a summer. From humorous to heartfelt, they are all worth the read!

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, by Lenore Look–Alvin is hilarious and relatable. This is the second in the series of Alvin Ho books; but I think it’s better than the first.

Long Lost, by Jacqueline West. Fiona’s family moves to a small town where she feels left out and lonely. Over the summer before she starts at her new school she makes a friend at the local library and together they uncover some eerie old village secrets.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia–Set in 1968, three girls travel to Oakland, California, to find the mother that abandoned them. It’s both funny and heartbreaking.

Healer of the Water Monster, by Brian Young–Nathan goes to visit his grandma for another boring summer on the Navajo reservation. There he meets the mythical Water Monster and all of a sudden his summer isn’t boring at all!

If the  time investment required by a chapter book doesn’t appeal to your young reader, these  books provide practice in shorter sessions. They are great for car trips and bedtime stories.


Laugh Out Loud: The 1001 Funniest Lol Jokes of All Time, by Rob Elliott–Full of puns, zingers, knock-knocks, and jokes, your youngster will want to share them with you. And share them. And share them. And share them….

Hide and Don’t Seek, by Anica Mrose Rissi–This is a collection of scary stories that’s just the right amount of scary for the middle grades reader. Chilling enough to tingle the spine without inducing lasting effects.


Any one of a number of Choose Your Own Adventure books, by R.A. Montgomery. Youngsters read a page or two and are presented with a choice. They are directed to a different page depending on the choice they made. Readers can move very quickly through the book, giving a feeling of completion, but most go back and read the pages they missed for a second (or third) adventure. 


Graphic novels are an evolved version of the comic book. But they are so much more. Some are funny, others are full of information. My favorites are the graphic versions of classic literature. A young reader can understand stories like The Secret Garden, Little Women, Frankenstein, or Tom Sawyer without the dense, antiquated text. There are all kinds to choose from and they all offer great reading practice. 


So let’s build some life-long readers this summer! Building better readers is an investment in America’s  future. Children who read well do better in school and in life. They are able to concentrate for  longer periods of time on a given task and have stronger memory skills. Successful readers are critical thinkers with expanded vocabularies. And, very importantly, good readers show a higher level of self esteem. Be intentional about fun reading practice this summer. Our children will benefit. HAVE SOME SUMMER READING FUN!