This story was contributed by literary specialist and mom Rosemary D’Urso, aka the “Library Mom”. Go to librarymom.com for more of her expert picks, and follow her on Instagram @librarymombooks.
While summer is an ideal time for children to relax, explore the outdoors, visit new places, and spend extra time with family and friends, it is also a critical time for children to maintain and build upon literacy skills.
To help get your children excited about reading over the summer, I’ve put together a list of books for children entering kindergarten through third grade with tons of kid appeal. I’ve included a wide range of formats, reading levels, and genres of books, so there is a little something for everyone.
Prepare to embark upon a summer of magical stories with these kid-tested and parent-approved books!
The summer before children begin kindergarten is an emotional one filled with lots of anticipation. Reading books together is a perfect way to enjoy a little extra snuggle time, while also getting your soon-to-be kindergartener excited about reading.
I’ve put together a list of my favorite books that are not only entertaining and engaging, but many on the list also reinforce important skills such as counting, rhyming, alphabetical recognition, and social emotional learning needed for kindergarten.
If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen
Rhyming text and Chris Van Dusen’s signature artwork shine in this entertaining school-themed story about a boy who dreams of designing his own school. The vivid illustrations and imaginative storyline are sure to inspire children to start planning their own idyllic schools. The other two in the series, I Built a Car and If I Built a House are must-haves as well!
Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman
This book is as fun to read aloud as it is to listen to. A group of enthusiastic chickens appear on each page to solve a crisis on their farm. Ranging from making dinner to getting cows out of a tree, there is no emergency too big for these impressive chickens. Each two-page spread presents a different disaster on each day helping to reinforce days of the week to young children.
The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Lorena Alvarez,
This story is perfect for empowering children to take risks, work hard, and embrace mistakes. Rhyming text and colorful illustrations follow a young girl who struggles to learn to ride a bike. Just as she is determined to walk forever, she meets the Magical Yet. Presented as a glowing pink flower-like object, the Magical Yet teaches the girl that with determination, practice, and grit, she can tackle any problem.
The engaging illustrations feature a diverse group of children learning to accomplish a variety of tasks giving this charming book wide appeal.
Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas
Rhyming is an important skill for new kindergarteners to know and what better way to reinforce it than by reading a book full of silly rhymes? This comical story stars four colorful, fuzzy dust bunnies who love to speak in rhyme. Prepare for giggles when one dust bunny starts blurting out some unexpected words that break their rhyming pattern.
One by Kathryn Otoshi
This brilliant book uses numbers and colors to create a clever story about bullying and acceptance. Red is hot headed and enjoys picking on Blue. The other colors are too intimidated to help until the number One enters and teaches them all a meaningful lesson. This is one of my favorite books that is a must-read.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
It’s time for bed and Little Red excitedly awaits her Papa’s bedtime stories. As he reads each classic fairy tale, the exuberant Little Red can’t help but interrupt each one with comical results. This enchanting Caldecott Honor book is a ton of fun to read aloud.
Boxitects by Kim Smith
This inspiring book takes the idea of creating with boxes and wraps it into an entertaining story with bright colors, imaginative creations, and a message about teamwork!Meg is excited to attend maker school and further develop her impressive skills of building with boxes. When she meets Simone, a fellow boxitect, however, she becomes jealous of the new student and dismayed when they are forced to work as a team. After a failed experiment, the two engineers realize they both have something valuable to offer and they can construct something even more amazing when working together.
SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod
What better way to get kids excited about the alphabet than using super heroes to introduce them? Using each letter of the alphabet, a new super hero is introduced with descriptions of his or her powers. The characters are diverse and the large, colorful illustrations are filled with amusing details.
1-2-3 Peas (Peas series) by Keith Baker
Keith Baker’s series about a group of anthropomorphic peas is a perfect way to introduce or review letters, numbers, colors, and seasons. In 1-2-3 Peas, flowing rhymes follow the peas as they perform comical actions as they count up to one hundred. The majority of the book counts by tens providing excellent practice for children while engaging with the captivating artwork. As an added bonus there is a ladybug that appears on each page that is fun to hunt for. I also highly recommend the other books in the series, LMNO Peas, LMNO Peaquel, Hap-pea All Year.
A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen; illustrated by Mike Lowery
When a young boy yearns to write a story like his big sister, she encourages him to start with a letter. He jots down the letter I and from that one straight line, grows a tale full of imagination. I adore how this story builds children’s confidence in their ability and encourages them to create.
The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier; illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
Filled with a spunky protagonist, lively illustrations, and engaging text, you will not want to miss this fun take on the classic folktale, “The Little Red Hen”. I can’t tell you how many forts this book as inspired in our house!
Green on Green by Dianne White, illustrated by Felicta Sala
This gorgeous new book uses elegant prose and charming illustrations to brilliantly capture the essence of each season.The tranquil pictures follow a family through a full year highlighting beautiful elements of nature such as plants, animals, and idyllic landscapes. Readers will observe the quiet joy each season brings and perceptive children will notice that the return of spring brings a new baby, further symbolizing the idea of rebirth. This sophisticated gem is a real standout!
See Zip Zap by David Milgrim
Zip is a little, green alien, who entertains others by making items magically appear. When his brother, Bip, falls asleep watching his show, Zip accidentally zaps a monster into existence with thrilling results.
It is amazing how David Milgrim is able to create an entertaining story with limited text. There are simple sentences that feature sight words, rhymes, repetition, and eye-catching illustrations that provide pictorial clues.
Frog Meets Dog (Frog and Dog series) by Janee Trasler
Part of Scholastic’s new Acorn line, which combines easy-to-read text with color illustrations and engaging storylines, Frog Meets Dog is an excellent choice for brand new readers. Very simple words, many of which rhyme and are repeated, follow a dog who tries to befriend a trio of frogs. The action-packed illustrations contain several instances of physical humor, which will result in giggles from readers. Drawing instructions and a writing prompt are also included in the back for extra fun.
Flubby Is Not a Good Pet by J.E. Morris
Flubby is a lovable, lazy cat who prefers to do things her own way. When her owner attempts to teach her tricks, they both discover that there is more to being a good pet than following directions. The simple sentences are perfectly paired with amusing illustrations that skillfully capture Flubby’s comical expressions.
The Adventures of Otto series by David Milgrim
These delightful books star a robot named Otto. They are full of action and funny illustrations that not only provide clues to the more difficult words in the text, but also make my son laugh out loud.
The simple text is mostly made up of sight words and new vocabulary is added slowly and repeated often. One installment in the series, Go Otto Go (2016) won a Geisel Honorfor one of the best easy readers of the year.
See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
This witty book is full of humor and fun and, best of all, perfect for emerging readers! A dog politely disagrees with an unseen narrator about what is occurring in this story with hilarious results! The short sentences are made up of mostly sight words and words that can be sounded out while the brief dialogue and the animated illustrations allow children to practice reading with expression. It was no surprise that this lovable story won the 2021 Geisel Award!
Ty’s Travels Zip, Zoom! by Kelly Starling Lyons; illustrated by Nina Mata
Ty is a joyful boy with a big imagination. When he receives a new scooter, he can’t wait to ride it in the park. After feeling wobbly and eventually falling, Ty grows frustrated but never gives up. With the support of his family and the encouragement of a new friend, Ty eventually learns to zoom like a race car driver! Kids will love following the resilient and playful Ty.
What This Story Needs Is a Pig In A Wig (series) by Emma J. Virjan
This book is such a fun and silly way to for children to practice a variety of vowel sounds.
Rhyming words are paired together and there are visual clues to help readers identify new words. This is a comical story that has a sweet message of friendship and inclusion that makes it a standout in this genre.
Mr. Monkey (series) by Jeff Mack
The Mr. Monkey series repeats words often and slowly introduces new vocabulary all while using visual clues from the comical illustrations. While Mr. Monkey can be pretty clumsy and silly at times, he also demonstrates resilience and always tries his best, attributes that I try to reinforce in my own children. The action-packed illustrations are full of physical comedy and had my children laughing out loud.
Should I Share My Ice Cream? (The Elephant and Piggie series) by Mo Willems
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. In this hilarious installment, Gerald has a big decision to make. He is excited to eat his ice cream, but then considers that his best friend, Piggie, might want to share it with him. What ensues is a laugh-out-loud struggle between the benefits of splitting the delicious dessert or not.
We are Growing by Laurie Keller
This quirky story stars a group of zany blades of grass who each celebrate a unique attribute. This is a fun book filled with clever humor, repeated text, and simple sentences to build literacy skills, and it has a great message of resilience and celebrating everyone’s differences. It is no wonder the book won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for best Easy Reader.
Duck, Duck, Porcupine (series) by Salina Yoon
In this Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor-winning series, readers meet a trio of endearing animals who share amusing exploits in three short stories. Since one of the characters, Little Duck, doesn’t speak, children refine their visual literacy and inference skills observing Little Duck’s actions and expressions. Colorful, bold pictures fill the pages while the stories are told through speech bubbles displaying simple text and accessible plot lines. These sweet books have just the right amount of humor and cuteness to make them a good choice for beginning reader collections
Don’t Worry, Bee Happy (Bumble and Bee series) by Ross Burach
Three short chapters follow two exuberant bees and their best friend, a grumpy frog, through several comical scenarios. Brightly colored illustrations appear in large graphic-novel-like panels and most of the text is displayed through speech bubbles. Each character has their own colored speech bubble, so it is easy to follow. The animated illustrations paired with the funny dialogue effortlessly lead children to read with expression.
Because children graduate first grade reading at a variety of levels, I’ve included an assortment of stories including easy readers, heavily illustrated transitional chapter books, and longer chapter books with more complex vocabulary and plotlines.
Hi! Fly Guy (series) by Tedd Arnold
The funny story of a boy named Buzz and his pet fly is a go-to for teachers and librarians for new readers. There are almost twenty books in this series and my son has enjoyed every one. The stories are usually full of imagination, silly antics, and loyal friendship between a boy and his pet.
The Mo Jackson series by David Adler; illustrated by Sam Ricks
There are surprisingly few easy readers available with a sports theme, but luckily the Mo Jackson series hits it out of the park. As the youngest and smallest boy on his team, Mo works extra hard to help his team win. Whether it is devising a surprise football play, trying to hit a home run, learning to pass a basketball, or practicing his soccer skills, Mo always does his best.
Charlie and Mouse (series) by Laurel Snyder; illustrated by Emily Hughes
This heavily illustrated chapter book features two relatable brothers and their everyday adventures. From waking their parents up in the morning to rounding up the neighborhood kids and trying to earn money by selling rocks, these tales are accessible and will resonate with many children.
Ling and Ting Not Exactly the Same (series) by Grace Lin
This Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor book stars two amiable twin sisters who partake in a variety of adventures. There is an old-fashion charm to these books that is both playful and whimsical. Elements of Chinese culture such as making dumplings and learning to use chopsticks are effortlessly woven in adding to the allure of the stories. Each chapter is only a few pages long, leaving children eager to read Ling and Ting’s next escapade.
Henry and Mudge and the First Book of Their Adventures (series) by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
This unforgettable easy reader has withstood the test of time and is still a go-to for many classroom teachers. The story of a lonely boy who finds friendship with a large dog is relatable and many children will enjoy reading about the twosome’s many adventures together.
King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats (series) by Dori Hillestad Butler; illustrated by Nancy Meyers
Kayla excitedly makes dog treats for her friend’s new puppy, but when three go missing, she suspects her own pet, King. Told from King’s point of view, he and Kayla work together to find the real culprit. Many readers will enjoy following the charming characters as they find clues and solve mysteries.
Filled with stunning photography, National Geographic has created an easy reader series that helps children build important literacy skills while also learning about the world around them. Each level contains different nonfiction elements such as table of contents, headings, captions, and sometimes diagrams. Learn more about the National Geographic Easy Reader Series HERE.
Poppleton (series) Scholastic Acorn Line by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Mark Teague
Three classic stories of a city pig who moves to the country are combined in this new release that also includes drawing instructions and a writing prompt. The original Poppleton stories were written decades ago, but there is a quiet charm to these stories that make them feel timeless.
Meet Yasmin! (series) by Saadia Faruqi; illustrated by Hatem Aly
Yasmin is a spunky, creative second-grader learning how to navigate life. Her adventures are captured in short chapters filled with colorful illustrations making this early chapter book accessible for new readers. Pakistani and Muslim cultural details are effortlessly woven into the stories with a glossary and additional facts about Pakistan located in the backmatter.
Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton
The cheerful Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly Fish are two unlikely friends who could not be more adorable. Upon meeting, they each believe the other is imaginary and the comical hijinks continue from there. These delightful books use a graphic novel format with large panels and dialogue to draw the reader in. There are three short stories in each book that are full of humor that both adults and children will appreciate. As a bonus, there are fun facts about sea creatures in between each chapter.
My Family Adventure (Sofia Martinez series) by Jacqeline Jules; illustrated by Kim Smith
Sofia Martinez is a spirited second-grade girl who wants to stand out. Three short chapters filled with colorful illustrations and sprinkled with Spanish vocabulary follow Sofia as she finds a special look for school picture day, creates a piñata for her abuela’s birthday, and captures an escaped pet mouse.
Bo’s Magical New Friend (Unicorn Diaries series) Scholastic Branches Line by Rebecca Elliott
Kids who love mythical creatures will adore this new series. A unicorn named Bo journals about his fantastical world filled with unicorns who have magical powers. When a new unicorn joins his school, Bo learns a lesson in friendship. Filled with bright colors and interesting characters, this new heavily illustrated chapter book is sure to be a hit.
The Princess in Black (series) by Shannon Hale; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
This popular series stars Princess Magnolia who may appear poised and proper, but she harbors a secret identity as the Princess in Black. This daring girl bravely faces evil-doers and readers will relish in reading about the self-reliant heroine. Color illustrations break up the longer text making this chapter book more approachable for newly independent readers.
Henry Heckelbeck Gets a Dragon by Wanda Coven; illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Henry may seem like an ordinary boy preparing for his first day of school, but with his mom and sister as witches, magic and mayhem seem to follow him. When Henry decides to bring in his toy dragon to share with his class, he is shocked when it comes to life. As he tries to hide his dragon, he makes a new friend in the process.
Because children graduate second grade reading at a variety of levels, I’ve included an assortment of stories including heavily illustrated transitional chapter books and longer chapter books with more complex vocabulary and plotlines.
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen have made quite a name for themselves in the world of children’s literature and their collaboration on the Mercy Watson series is truly outstanding. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love this charismatic porcine. The irresistible illustrations immediately draw the reader in and the engaging text is such a joy to read.
Dinosaurs Before Dark (The Magic Tree House series) by Mary Pope Osbourne; illustrated by Sal Murdocca
When a mysterious tree house appears in Jack and Annie’s backyard, they can’t resist exploring it. They quickly learn the tree house is a time machine that transports them back to the age of the dinosaurs. This entertaining series is a perfect mix of history and fantasy wrapped into an adventure story.
Rise of the Earth Dragon (Dragons Masters series) by Tracey West; illustrated by Graham Howells
Filled with an adventurous storyline starring a group of diverse children who are charged with connecting with and training dangerous dragons with special talents, this is a go-to for reluctant readers. Black and white pictures are paired with large print making this early chapter book series appear less intimidating to young readers.
Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence; illustrated by Elizabet Vuković
It’s New Year’s Eve and Jasmine yearns to make the traditional Japanese mochi dessert like her big sister. Many younger siblings will relate to Jasmine’s desire to feel special and have the opportunity to do something before her older sister. There is a lot to like about the spunky Jasmine and this heartwarming story celebrating family and culture.
The Ember Stone (The Last Firehawk series) by Katrina Charman
Tag is a young owl training to become a protector of his magical forest. When his land is threatened by the evil vulture, Thorn, Tag and his friend Skyla embark on an important mission to retrieve a magical stone whose power can save or destroy them. Children who love fantasy and adventure will be drawn to this suspenseful new chapter book series.
The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey
Fans of funny stories are not going to be able to resist this one! When four traditional villains attempt to lead better lives and help people, hilarious hijinks ensue. The black and white illustrations are full of expression and the comical text has tons of kid appeal!
Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters (Questioneers series) by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts
The creative star of the best-selling picture book Rosie Revere Engineer is back in her very own chapter book. Rosie and her friends Iggy Peck and Ada Twist, work together to build a contraption to help a friend participate in an art contest. Similar to the picture book series, they learn important lessons in problem solving and resilience. The detailed black and white artwork with pops of red add to the fun of this enjoyable new STEAM story!
Mac Undercover (Mac B. Kid Spy series) by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Mike Lowery
In this quirky story, acclaimed author Mac Barnett, reveals that he was actually a super spy as a child. Set in the 1980’s, the humorous tale takes readers on a hysterical adventure of Mac flying to London to aid the queen in the mystery of her missing Crown Jewels. While some of the humor may go over kids’ heads, they won’t care because they will be having so much fun reading about Mac’s exciting escapade traveling the world in this comical story.
Lola Levine is Not Mean (series) by Monica Brown; illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Lola Levine is a bicultural second-grader who loves playing soccer, writing in her diary, and spending time with her family and best friend, Josh. When she accidentally hurts another classmate during a soccer game, she is teased for being mean. Luckily, Lola’s supportive family helps her through this tough time. With well-developed characters and a realistic school scenario, many children will be attracted to this engaging series.
Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras series) by Asia Citro; illustrated by Marion Lindsay
Zoey dreams of being a scientist like her mom and when she discovers she is able to see magical creatures, she gets a chance to put her scientific knowledge to work sooner than she thought. Each story in this outstanding series follows Zoey and her cat Sassafras as they use science to help magical creatures solve their problems.
The Gold Medal Mess (Most Valuable Player MVP series) by David A. Kelly; illustrated by Scott Brundage
It’s Field Day at Franklin Elementary School and it is up to five friends to stop someone from sabotaging the Olympic style games. Part mystery, part sports stories, this book has a lot of kid appeal. The book is further enhanced by facts and photos of the real Olympic Games. If you are looking for more sports books, David A. Kelly has also written the Ballpark Mysteries series.
Who Would Win series by Jerry Pallota
This entertaining series is perfect for reluctant readers or any child who loves to learn about animals. Facts about some of the world’s most dangerous animals are presented with photographs and lifelike illustrations. The animals are paired against each other and using the facts presented on the creatures’ size, intellect, and ability, children try to predict the outcome of the showdown.