ParentClick Santa Barbara

Getting Ready for Summer: The All-Important Summer Reading List


One of my favorite memories of my summers as a child is the time I spent suspended in a hammock on warm summer afternoons with a good book. This time was a luxury. I was reading for my own pleasure, not doing homework. The air was warm and comfortable. During my time in the hammock, I escaped into a world of the imagination that was almost as eye opening and relaxing as a physical escape to a far-away place. Now that I am a parent, I want my children to know this same pleasure and mode of escape. In fact, I see my children’s ability to travel through their imaginations as a critical skill for being happy and a necessary antidote to the stress and busyness of life. Hence, the all-important summer reading list.

My children’s schools give them summer reading recommendations and requirements. I consider it equally important for my children to read what they want to read (within reason) and, if we are going to be traveling, to read about the place, the history or the experience we are about to have. I am not talking about travel books specifically, but reading that is thematically in keeping with an experience. I try to direct my children towards books that will enhance and add depth to their summer adventures. Sometimes this takes a bit of research or a chat with a favorite librarian. The Internet and Amazon make it easy to find books about a place or experience. It can also take a bit of cajoling on my part. I understand my kids’ desire to want to read for their own pleasure and at their own pace. It’s summer, after all! Frankly, I consider myself fortunate that they are avid readers, so I take a “one for me, one for you” approach and reassure them that they will get more out of our trip if they understand more about it. Luckily, this is an argument that I had to make when they were younger. Now that they are older and have experienced the benefits of reading about the places they visit, they are more amenable to the idea and, in fact, even look forward to developing their summer reading lists. We treat making our summer reading lists and finding the books as a special occasion—a special privilege of summer.

Some of our best travel adventures have been shared through literature. Our family loves audio books. If travel involves a drive, audio books are an important part of it. I will never forget one very long drive—ten hours—with a new puppy. The trip was even longer as a result of all the “puppy breaks” along the way. We chose to listen to Where the Red Fern Grows on that trip. It is telling that when we finally got to our destination, we all sat in the driveway and did not get out of the car, tears streaming down our faces, as we listened to the last fifteen minutes of the story.

As you organize your summer, do not neglect your children’s summer reading lists. There are many resources to turn to for help—public libraries, your child’s school librarian, published lists. Your travel plans can be an inspiration and a starting point. Your children’s imaginations will do the rest.


[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

June 1, 2015

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