Top 10 Books to Jumpstart Your Summer Reading

by Ruth Strubank

Ruth Strubank is the former Senior Director of Research and Development for Jumpstart where she leads Jumpstart’s research and development efforts to advance future programming through innovations in curriculum development and model development.

Summer provides endless opportunities to create new habits and routines to read and share books every day. You can read books whether you’re on a road trip exploring new places, visiting family, going to the beach or on a picnic, planting a garden, or staying up late at night watching the fireflies. When you’re stuck indoors you can listen to favorite stories being read aloud online. Choose books that connect to activities you plan to do, places you’ll visit, or things you want to learn more about. Happy summer reading!

1. Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

In this book we meet Grandpa Green, who lived on a farm as a boy, but wasn’t always a gardener. He was a soldier, a husband, and most of all an artist. Grandpa leads his grandson through a garden where memories are shared through the shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten. Grandpa Green opens the door to a garden of wonder which parents and grandparents will be able to share with children.

2. Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English

Hot Day on Abbott Avenue tells the story of the hottest, stickiest day of the summer; it’s a day when the sky is filled with a fat sun and all you want to do is eat ice-pops on the porch. It’s also a best friend’s break-up day for Kishi and Renée. Each girl sits on her own front porch, waiting for the other to apologize, even though they know they’ll never speak to each other again no matter how bored they get. But then the sounds of feet slapping the pavement and voices chanting double-dutch rhymes drifts up the avenue and neither one can resist going out in the street to play. This is a story about sharing and forgiveness and the ups and downs of being, and having, a best friend.

3. The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

This story tells of a neighbor’s garden that looks so much prettier and so much more inviting to a young gardener than the garden of “black-purple-green vines, fuzzy wrinkled leaves, prickly stems, and a few little yellow flowers” that she and her mother grow. Nevertheless, mother assures her that “these are better than flowers.” Come harvest time, everyone agrees as those ugly Chinese vegetables become the tastiest, most aromatic soup they have ever known. This classic story comes complete with a guide to the Chinese pronunciation of the vegetables and the recipe for ugly vegetable soup!

4. The Puddle Pail by Elisa Kleven

In The Puddle Pail, Ernst wants to collect things just like his big brother Sol does. He thinks that puddles and their reflections are beautiful, so he decides to start a puddle collection. Ernst mixes puddle water with watercolors and paints the things reflected in his puddle pail, creating a collection of paintings.

5. Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington

In this book, springtime is here, and Zinnia can’t wait to plant her seeds and watch them grow. She carefully tends to her garden, watering her plants, weeding, and waiting patiently for something to sprout. Soon enough, the first seedlings appear! Buds develop and finally flowers bloom—sunflowers, sweet peas, and of course, zinnias. By the end of the summer the garden is full of bright colors. The story concludes with information on how to grow your own flowers.

6. Abuela by Arthur Dorros

Abuela is the story of a girl named Rosalba who spends time going many places with her grandmother-abuela. During a trip to the park to feed the birds, Rosalba imagines how she and her grandmother might soar high over the city of New York. At every stop along the way, Rosalba’s grandmother shares memories which provide a glimpse into her culture.

7. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This book shares the story of a family tradition: every summer the relatives from Virginia come for a visit. The family spends weeks and weeks all together and as the relatives make their way home, everyone dreams about getting together next summer. This is a story of laughter, love, and hugs in a large family reunion.

8. In Aunt Giraffe’s Green Garden by Jack Prelutsky

This picture book of poetry is a collection of twenty-eight hilarious poems. There is so much to see and do: you can smell the tall flower, eat oodles of noodles with some poodles, sip juice with a big blue goose, fish in a frosty pond, and much more. Many of the poems have a geographical themes and feature animal tourists exploring cities and landmarks across the US. Everyone will be smiling from ear-to-ear after reading these silly poems.

9. All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon & Marla Frazee

All the world is here, there, everywhere, and right where you are. This book follows a family on a summer day from morning on the beach through a busy day and night. The boy and girl and their parents visit and experience many different things: visiting a lakeside pavilion, going to a farmers market, getting caught in the rain, sharing a warm meal in a cozy little café, joining in a gathering of musical kin, and spending a night at home. This summer day offers sun, wind, a storm, and a sense of well-being and contentment.

10. Stella Star of the Sea by Marie-Louise Gay

Centered on a big sister and her little brother, this book follows Stella and Sam as they spend the day at the sea. Stella has been to the sea before and knows all its secrets, but Sam has many questions: “Does a catfish purr? Does a seahorse gallop?” Stella has an answer for them all. The only thing she isn’t sure of (and neither are we) is whether Sam will ever come into the water.

Some of these books are also available in Spanish.

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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