I always looked forward to summer vacation as a child. I looked forward to it even more as a mother of young children.
The freedom to explore and experience life with fewer boundaries and time constraints has always made it a little bit special.
I tend to bristle a bit when researchers prescribe continued educational exercises over the summer months to avoid the dreaded “summer academic loss.” I’m not suggesting that summer should be a time for no learning (and definitely not for un-learning), but for many it’s a time for learning differently and that’s an incredibly valuable thing.
There’s absolutely no reason that filling a summer with play and explorational learning must necessarily exclude reading. In fact, keeping books in the mix can really enhance summer learning activities with a bonus of sharpening reading skills.
Summer reading should be for enjoyment though.
Put away the timers and the spelling lists and let your children simply savor the stories. You may just find that in a few short weeks your reluctant readers become the next generation of bibliophiles!
To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of 5 favorite book series to inspire your family’s summer adventures.
I’ve included links to the books at Amazon so you can read more reviews and purchase if you wish. Because I am an affiliate, if you purchase after clicking one of these links I receive a small commission on the sale.
Be sure to add your own suggestions in the comments!
Little House on the Prairie
The Little House on the Prairie series of nine books begins with Little House in the Big Woods. Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it is a collection of memories of growing up on the frontier in the late 1800s. Although it is often recommended for readers aged 8-12, younger children will enjoy listening to it when read aloud.
The books pictured above are actually the very ones that I read as a young girl.
They are the first books I remember reading for fun, and obsessing over. They inspired years of imaginative playtime for my best friend and me as we set up our own cabin beneath the old lilac bush and pushed our covered wagon (aka wheelbarrow) around to collect treats on Halloween.
Activities inspired by these books might include building a cabin (birdhouse, dollhouse, etc.), making your own butter, or any type of gardening or planting, including their own little plot or pot to care for.
If interests tend that way, sewing a baby doll (or pocket monster), making fabric yo yos, button strings and calico pockets are quiet afternoon-in-the-shade activities.
Designing their own nets for catching butterflies or frogs might be appealing for more adventurous afternoons.
Imagination can make bicycles into horses, and even household chores can be more fun if you imagine you’re somebody else! Try stringing up a clothesline for old fashioned laundry fun, and a tee pee or other handmade shelter is a fantastic way to get out of the sun in the afternoon, or even sleep out in the woods (or backyard) at night.
Anne of Green Gables
If you never had the chance to fall in love with “Anne with an ‘e'” in your youth don’t pass up the chance now. The Anne books are especially suited to young girls, and while the first book is recommended for age 8 and up, young readers might benefit from team reading this with an adult. It’s also a great read-aloud series. Over the course of the eight books Anne grows up and becomes a mother, but her children are equally delightful and their adventures don’t disappoint.
Activities Anne might inspire include bike riding (in a skirt, if you’re brave), dancing, tea parties, gardening (especially prize cabbages), balancing (in a safe place close to the ground – avoid rooftops), baking treats, and three-legged races.
She will also inevitably inspire lots of pretend play.
Anne works hard, too – so make chores a bit more fun by pretending with your reader while you clean the floor, polish mirrors and care for pets.
Of course, while Anne is enchanting, you’re really missing out if you haven’t been introduced to some of L. M. Montgomery’s other delightful heroines. I especially recommend The Story Girl books for summer fun. And if you need a truly sweet and heartwarming story for yourself please consider picking up The Blue Castle. It’s one of my very favorites.
If you are a Kindler, you can find an anthology of several of her books for under $2.00.
All of your favorite mythical and fairy tale creatures come to life in the Fablehaven series. These were some of the earliest books that converted my reluctant reader into a pleasure reader after the author came to his school. My son recommends these books for readers of either gender starting about age 9, and like the others, they are great books for reading aloud as a family.
Two young children travel to spend the summer with their grandparents, who live on a very special preserve. They have no idea the kind of adventure they are in for, or the danger.
One of the young characters is constantly causing trouble because he refuses to obey rules. He can serve as a catalyst for discussions about how our choices have consequences that we sometimes can’t foresee, and that rules are put into place by adults to keep us (and others) safe.
Activities inspired by Fablehaven may include making treats and secretly leaving them for neighbors (like the Brownie creatures in the book). Children will also enjoy “fairy” hunting with mirrors and butterfly nets or sculpting Hugo out of mud and sticks. Hone outdoor skills with orienteering with a map and compass, knot tying and racing to see who can best outrun dangerous creatures.
Beyonders is by the same author as Fablehaven, Brandon Mull, and quickly became another favorite with the same son. There is more violence in this book than the Fablehaven series, though it’s not graphic. I’d say it’s more appropriate for readers starting at about age 11 or 12. The main character is a boy who accidentally falls into another world. He quickly becomes the ally of a blind king while he tries to solve a puzzle that will release the kingdom from a wicked tyrant.
Activities inspired by Beyonders may include making swords from foam and learning basic fencing moves, treasure hunts, building a bow and arrows, and archery. Also consider inventing and creating unique musical instruments, hiking, exploring the yard blindfolded, building a raft from reclaimed wood, or building a small raft from paper or twigs to sail in a ditch or stream.
My youngest son recommends the Janitors series which is especially suited to readers aged 8-12. Two students accidentally find themselves able to see the invisible creatures that inhabit their school. The creatures make learning difficult or impossible. They soon discover that the school janitors are fighting the infestation with specially modified cleaning tools. While joining forces with their own school maintenance workers, the students find out that not all janitors have the students’ best interests at heart.
Activities inspired by this book just might make chore time more fun! Especially suited to the Maker movement, readers may come up with creative new ways of accomplishing everyday tasks and invent innovative solutions to challenges. Other activities might include fencing with broom handles, target practice with sponges, building a go cart and making homemade gloop.
READY, SET, GO! You’re sure to find some fun ideas in these books for your summer adventures. Be sure to leave your own book and activity suggestions in the comments.