As voracious readers, we enjoy great stories and the simple feeling of getting lost in a great “other world”. We also love to learn new things, and in order to help the boys discover new genres of books, I created book lists for them for the summer, with the hopes of them reading at least one of these books each week. They don’t have to read these specific books, but if they do they get prizes (their choice), and I get the satisfaction of seeing them read and experience both amazing, popular books as well as some books I loved as a kid, some of which I don’t even see on the bookshelf on the library anymore. Some have gone out of print, and others have (with time and new books being published) found themselves in less libraries, and I still think of them from time to time.
I decided to search for those hard to find books (some with nothing more than a plot snippet if I forgot the title). To be honest, it was quite a hunt. Some of the books aren’t in print anymore, and I couldn’t remember the titles of many, so I had to google my own plot summaries, scour reading forums, make requests in “Name that book!” threads, and look some more. One book, A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag, took me months to find because all I had to go on was “That young adult novel about two best friends who run for student council and like the same red-headed girl”. I remember that I loved the book as a kid, it was funny and silly, and just right for a young boy. And friends, despite the time invested, it was worth it. I finally found most of the books I loved between 7 and 12, and am now able to share the stories that I felt changed me and how I see the world with my own children .. books filled with friendship, fun, and even magic.
Incidentally, you can get A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag here, and the author Gordon Korman wrote many funny young adult novels for boys that you may also love. I find that so many books are written for girls, or if they are for boys, tend toward horror or drama. There just aren’t that many simply funny, coming of age, not-raised-on-a-farm or dealing-with-death-and-hard-times books for boys, and while I really do think books that teach about history, reality, life and death, and hardships are important, the boys have already read so many of those. They are assigned so many of those, and honestly, it’s ok to read the fluff too. Reading is fun, and I decided that this summer the focus would be on fun reads also. I wanted the boys to know there are lots of these in the literary world.
After compiling my book lists, I noticed that most of those books that altered me most as a kid had a common theme… there was the fantastical in them. I think children like the idea of having something that makes them feel larger than life, special, and having to keep it a secret makes them feel noble and important. Most of the books I remembered were like Matilda, but in a shorter novel version. These kids can fly, have E.S.P., etc, and it was the world I wanted to escape to as a kid- the world of children having secret super powers. Other books simply feature a child with a special talent, but the premise was the same- a feeling of having a talent that was unique and important. Children want to know they are important and can see themselves in these stories ♥︎
Books I read when I was a kid…
…. and want my sons to read too
1. The Princess Bride
2. And This Is Laura (this was one of those hard to find books for me)
3. Johnny Tremain (my favorite historical fiction novel ever)
4. The Outsiders
5. Mail-Order Wings (was out of print, but I kept looking and finally discovered the author re-printed a batch- I snatched a copy up!)
Books my older son picked up on his own to read this year (he is in fourth grade, so these are appropriate for 4th graders):
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2. The Hero’s Guide (the trilogy of books by Christopher Healy)
3. Treasure Island
4. The Phantom Tollbooth (oh my gosh, this is funny!)
5. The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy
6. Tin-Tin (all the comics- retro and interesting)
8. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (one of those books I always wanted to read as a kid but never did)
This summer I also made a list of five books I want to read to/with my sons (part of our read aloud project):
1. The Book of Boy
2. The Time Machine (a bit advanced for them to read on their own, but children understand a few years ahead of their reading level when read to)
3. Wind in the Willows
4. Poppy by Avi
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
and these are a few of the books I’m reading myself:
1. Memory-Making Mom
2. Grateful American – really good!
4. Restoration House- an *amazing* book by blogger Kennesha Buycks about creating a wonderful home space for the family
5. Reading Magic
For my younger son, who is starting second grade, we are starting the summer with him reading the Boxcar Children and The Penderwicks. He spent the last few months reading all of Dan Gutman’s Weird School books (over 50 between his multiple series), and is currently reading Charlotte’s Web. So far this year we read together Stuart Little, the Trumpet Swan, Peter Pan, My Father’s Dragon (and the two sequels), and a few Kate DiCamillo books (we adore her incredibly powerful, poignant stories ♥︎), and of course they read their assigned school books, some of which were also pretty amazing. He wasn’t that interested in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books (shocking to me- I loved them!) but he has shown interest in the Henry Huggins books, so those will be next.
Offer rewards to inspire reluctant readers
My younger son didn’t love reading as naturally as my older son did, so I started offering the prizes for finishing books. Every book garnered a $10 reward of their choice (give or take), so they could pick a visit to Carvel, a pizza dinner, or a plush toy on Amazon. They started “saving up” their prizes to get bigger rewards (like this $30 Harry Potter sweatshirt my older son- who loves the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter- really wanted… three books for it). It works out really well! I also like to read Lexile scores for book to encourage them toward age- and grade-appropriate books, and I find that here. I don’t mind them reading fluff here and there, but overall, I don’t want them to make it a habit to only read easy books, so prizes are for books at their grade level and above only. The fluff books are for their own fun 😉
If you have books or novels you loved as a child or teen, share them with your kids! I am offering a free printable so you can write down your own bucket list of summer books for your kids. After each book, offer them a small reward (write it on the printable so they know what they are working toward). Pick what works best for you! Maybe a trip to an amusement part, or a family trip to get smoothies, or a movie? It’s a great way to inspire reluctant readers to give books a chance, and usually once they begin and realize how wonderful the world of books are, they are self-motivated to keep going, reading books by favorite authors or settling in to a fun series and devouring every book. Plus, it’s more fun to read when there is a reward waiting at the end rather than a demerit for not doing it- reading should be fun ♥︎
Have a great summer of reading!