We can all agree on the importance of summer reading for children; in fact, I wrote about it here. Keeping those third through fifth grade children interested in books when the pool is calling their names ranks as one of the more difficult parts of summer vacation. What books are appropriate and, dare I say, cool enough for our picky tweens? Here are a few super popular novels for summer reading that I use with my fourth grade students each year. For your convenience, I’m popping some affiliate links in this post. If you choose to purchase one of these books through my link, you won’t pay a penny more, but I may make a small commission. Don’t worry, though. I wouldn’t recommend something I don’t absolutely LOVE!
Tales was my absolute favorite book as a kid. One of the biggest and best favors my mom ever did for me was to put this book in my hands. Judy Blume’s writing style launched my fascination with humor writing and helped me find my own author’s voice. I was depressed when I finished the book, so my mom found Superfudge, the sequel. I reread them both several times that summer and the next.
Even though this is an older novel written in the 70’s, all my students have to read it. I haven’t had one complaint in two decades. The children love the crazy and relatable stories about Peter Hatcher’s little brother Fudge. The surprise twist near the end will keep kids reading until the very last page. Bonus—this book is the first in the series, and most kids who read this novel are hungry for more! Not to worry–Blume has several more Fudge novels for summer reading!
This award-winning novel is a terrific way to add historical fiction to your kids’ list of novels for summer reading. I teach this book during our 20th century social studies unit. It ties in beautifully with the Depression and with Civil Rights.
Without fail, my students immediately latch on to Bud, a young orphan trying to find his family during the Depression in Michigan. The kids in my class couldn’t wait to see what this hilariously naïve boy will get into next. One part is so touching that i cry every single year when I read this with kids. I’ve had students get a little teary, too, when this book is finished—not because the ending is sad, but because they want MORE! Luckily, Christopher Paul Curtis has been prolific–kids will love his other work The Mighty Miss Malone, The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, and Elijah of Buxton.
Bud is a relatable character that kids won’t soon forget. Curtis’s writing is spot on here, and I can’t recommend this one enough.
Carbone uses primary sources to weave together the incredible story of the first settlers of Jamestown. Told from the point of view of Samuel Collier, a boy who actually went to the colony in 1607, this book is a page turner. Indian attacks, survival, and the relationships between different classes of men in the colony will keep kids reading. The violence within the pages is historically accurate—this book is not for advanced early elementary readers. This is more of a grade 4-8 novel.
This book is complex, cerebral, and provides many opportunities for discussion throughout. You may want to read this before giving it to your child, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Carbone has several other novels for summer reading as well! Stealing Freedom Storm Warriors are two others I love.
This Newbery book starts a series of Mo and Dale mysteries. Set in rural Eastern North Carolina, these characters deal with a murder, domestic violence, and alcoholism in a manner palatable to most middle grade readers. Mo is young girl who washed into Tupelo Landing as an infant during a hurricane. The mysterious Colonel and Miss Lana took her in and thus began their unusual adventures. Told with a Southern twang, the friendship and adventures of these small town characters will leave even adult readers craving a sweet iced tea.
My students loved this book so much that I downloaded the second in the series, Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, during the last week of school. I read it to them from my phone. They could not wait to hear more.
That said, there are multiple advanced themes in this book. Turnage handles them with tact and humor, but check the book out yourself before sharing it with your child. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to put it down either!
Sharon Creech is a Newbery novelist with a collection of amazing work. This novel, told in verse, is one with which I teach my fourth grade poetry unit.
Jack, a student in Miss Stretchberry’s class, hates poetry at first. His teacher shares classic literature with him in a personable and non-threatening way that draws him in to the world of verse. He soon finds his own poetic voice and reveals how poetry can not only create a classroom community, but can also heal a broken heart.
I also use Creech’s sequel, Hate That Cat, with my students because they get so into Jack’s story. These are quick reads that kids just don’t want to see end! If your kids love this novel-told-in-verse concept, you might want to check out Creech’s Heartbeat. You won’t be disappointed!
Hope these novels entice your family as much as they have mine. What novels are you reading with your kids this summer? I would love it if you shared your favorite titles in the comments below!