Family Summer Reading List 2019
I come from a reading family. Many of my favorite memories revolve around us all piled on my parent’s bed or sprawled around the living room as we read aloud before bed. To this day, my siblings and I can still get into heated conversations about the books we experienced together as children. In fact, as I was working on writing this post, I texted them asking for their book recommendations, and instantly ignited an hour long conversation about our family favorites.
Now that I’m on the parent side of the relationship, I realize that all those rosy memories required a lot more effort than my childhood self realized. If my parent’s experience was anything like my own, the idyllic moments snuggled together sharing stories were likely constantly interrupted by bathroom breaks, rabbit-trail questions, and misplaced elbows. But they persevered, and in doing so made a permanent mark on our family identity.
We’ve all seen the studies on the importance of reading in the development of children. Kids who are read to do better in school, have larger vocabularies, relate better to their peers, etc, etc. But beyond the academic benefits, I think there are greater gifts that books have to offer:
Teachable Moments (that actually stick)
A truly good book doesn’t just entertain; it invites you to live another life, experience another world. And when you share that journey with another person, you create a common language of ideas, images and values. My husband has spent the last year reading the Chronicles of Narnia series to our 5 and 7 year old daughters, and we have been surprised to find how it has given us a whole new vocabulary to help them understand big, abstract ideas. Pride? Queen Jadis in The Magician’s Nephew. Sacrifice? Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Obedience? Lucy following Aslan in Prince Caspian. These are values that we dearly want our kids to understand, but that can be so difficult to explain on their level. But wrap them in a story we have loved together, and they suddenly come to life with more power than a simple definition ever can.
But it’s not just the deep, teachable moments that make reading together worth it. It’s also an easy way to invest both quality and quantity time in your family. It’s not rocket science that regular time together is imperative for healthy families, but we all know how easily that time can get lost. Yet reading together necessitates that you’re all in the same place at the same time doing the same thing. Don’t underestimate the power of that simple fact. But then couple it with a story that you’re all engaged with for days or weeks at a time, and suddenly you find you are building up relational capital both between parents and kids, and sibling to sibling. Whether it’s laughing until you can’t breathe at the ridiculousness that is Hank the Cowdog, or collectively holding your breath to the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, those moments living in an alternative world together build bonds that can last a lifetime (for proof, just get me and my siblings started on The Pushcart War).
Create a Safe Place to Grow and Question
Life is hard, sin is real. As much as we want to shelter our kids from the brokeness of the world, we know it’s unavoidable - loss, fear, and hurt will be a part of their lives. But one of the great things about reading together is that it allows your kids to grapple with hard themes while you are right there to walk beside them. Whether you’re wanting to pre-emptively strengthen your children for the trials ahead, or help them deal with a current struggle or fear, stories provide a safe place to observe and talk about emotions, choices, consequences, and the goodness of following God instead of the world. So don’t be afraid to venture into more serious reading material as your kids age, and be ready to be their guide in understanding how to navigate the brokeness of the world with grace and hope.
So, are you ready to read this summer? Later bedtimes, relaxed days, and vacations provide plenty of opportunities: read around the campfire, listen to an audiobook on your summer road trip, or while huddled around the AC during the July heatwave. To get you started, I’ve put together a list of some of our staff family favorites. Whether your kids are barely sitting still, reading on their own, or heading off to college, I hope you’ll find something to enjoy together and that one of your best memories of Summer 2019 will involve a good book and time with the people you love… and not too many misplaced elbows.
A Few Tips
- Take advantage of audiobooks. Many of the books below have fantastic audio renditions that are great for roadtrips or keeping the kids occupied while you make dinner. And did you know that if you have a NCRL library card, you can download audio and ebooks to any device for free using the Hoopla and Libby apps?
- Experiment with what works best for your family. Maybe you rotate who gets to be the reader. Maybe you read one-on-one with some of your kids. Maybe you set up a family book club where everyone reads the book on their own and then gets together to talk about it. Or maybe you just make a bowl of popcorn to set the mood. Be creative and have fun with it!
Young Children (these books tend to have short, episodic chapters that are easy to get through, and simple, humorous storylines)
My Father’s Dragon (I recommend this as the first chapter book read-aloud for any child)
History and Historical Fiction
Crown and Covenant series
The Zion Chronicles and Zion Covenant series
Fun (because there’s nothing better than laughing with your kids)
All the Feels (because sometimes it’s also good to cry together)
Classics Everyone Should Read (just in case you’ve never gotten around to these, this is the summer! These make great road trip picks - hours and hours of good story)
The Lord of The Rings seriesThe Lord of The Rings series (start with The Hobbit for younger kids)