The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Kids and Teens

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Looking to keep your kids entertained this summer? A good book goes a long way—and this reading list has it all: with stories for early readers, big kids, and tweens and teens.

<p>McKinsey Jordan / Stocksy </p>

McKinsey Jordan / Stocksy

Whether you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile this summer, chances are you on the hunt for a good read. Summer is a great time for diving into that new novel, be a thriller, memoir, or "beach book." But if you have kids, the summer is great time to share your love of reading with your children, from eight months to 18 years. Having a summer reading list is a great way to pass the time. Plus, it helps to keep your kids’ creative juices flowing.

Of course, when most of us travel, we are in our own world. We zone out with headphones, tablets, and mobile devices. But how incredible would it be if you and your family could pass (some of) the time enjoying the same story together, keeping you and your kiddos engaged and entertained?

Well, good news: We've got you covered. Our summer reading list is designed with the whole family in mind. Below are some of our favorites: for early readers, big kids, and tweens and teens.

Summer Reading List for Early Readers

Young readers are the least discerning of the bunch—since the entire world is still relatively new to them—so it's the dealer's choice when it comes to picture books and (as they age) beginner chapter books. But choose your wisely: It’s likely that your little one will request to hear the same story again and again.

Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant

If you could live in one storybook land, you’d want it to be Poppleton’s. This pig has it made. He’s a sunny retiree with a wide range of hobbies, a loyal friend group, and an unending supply of snacks. Half picture book, half chapter book, there’s something undeniably charming about this animal world.

Zilot & Other Important Rhymes by Bob Odenkirk

This collection of silly poems will make the entire family LOL. Written by actor Bob Odenkirk and illustrated by his daughter, each poem features a fun play on words and a zany illustration. Odenkirk and his kids wrote these poems at bedtime every night and now, many years later, they’ve been touched up for your enjoyment. 

Seashell Key by Lourdes Heuer

If you have a slightly older reader, you may want to celebrate summer with this beautifully illustrated chapter book that follows a group of kids living in a seaside town and getting into some good-natured mischief. Mateo makes animal kites for tourists, sisters Sasha and Sophia comb the beach for treasures, and the three siblings Eli, Ezra, and Elana, live in an actual lighthouse. Just be careful: your kids will be begging to spend a week on Seashell Key themselves.  

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence

Do you have a headstrong family member who’s three feet high and rising? Then they’ll want to meet Jasmine Toguchi, who’s so spunky she’d run circles around Ramona Quimby. Jasmine is determined to make a mark in her family’s mochi-making traditions. You can’t help but root for her. Plus, there’s a mochi recipe at the end of the book. Great for elementary-aged kids.

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

If you are looking for a heartwarming story, one which will teach your littles about empathy and the power of human connection, look no further than You Hold Me Up. Written by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Danielle Daniel, this vibrant picture book  will teaches readers to support and hold each other up in a variety of ways

The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne

Your family will gobble up this beloved series that features a pair of time-traveling siblings. Each book is like a mini history lesson. And since there are a zillion installments of The Magic Tree House, it will last you and your young reader the entire summer.

Mama’s Library Summers by Melvina Noel

This delightfully illustrated picture book is a fantastic glimpse at the power of language. A mother introduces Black history to her two young daughters through the wonders of reading. Throughout a pivotal summer, the family travels through pages, discovering the joy of reading and finding themselves in each story.

Summer Reading List for Big Kids

As your kids get older, their screens become more enticing—so you’ll want a story that can top the new Taylor Swift album or Minecraft Dungeons. Luckily, some of the options below have screen adaptations. It’s all about compromise. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

You could choose any one of Roald Dahl’s masterpieces, really. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is a tad shorter than the rest, making it the perfect listen for an afternoon road trip. A touching testimony to the power of teamwork, this story about a group of animals battling a farmer can be followed up with the Wes Anderson film. Win-win.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

Published in 1967, this classic follows a pair of siblings as they run away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As you know, reading aloud means taking your time on every single word. So it’s a pleasure to take this book slowly to savor the lovely snapshots of another era.

Ferris by Kate DiCamillo

Two-time Newbery medalist Kate DiCamillo is known for books that are surprisingly profound. Each one of her releases becomes a modern classic. And she’s firing on all cylinders with Ferris. Funny, tender, and quirky, this love story features a girl, a ghost, and a grandmother. Also, there’s a 6-year-old bank robber.

Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

Hilda is a fearless blue-haired girl who travels through the wilderness befriending mysterious creatures. The graphic novel is a great match for kids who love Moomins or Pippi Longstocking. And you can follow up the book with the tween Netflix series. 

Choose Your Own Adventure: Your Very Own Robot by R. A. Montgomery

There’s a reason the choose-your-own-adventure form has stood the test of time: it rules. Kids control so little in their lives, so they love taking charge of a creative universe. This one’s a good place to start because, well, all kids love robots.

City Spies by James Ponti

This super-fun series is about an unlikely squad of kids from around the world who form an elite MI6 Spy Team. The latest installment, Mission Manhattan, is a must-have for anyone visiting the city this summer. The whole series is an ideal fit for action fanatics who love Spy School, Alex Rider, and Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls. With a backdrop of exotic locations, and iconic landmarks, parents will also dig the heartfelt humor.

Summer Reading List for Teens and Tweens

Even if they won’t admit it, tweens are in that tender stage where they still like being read aloud to, so soak it up while you can. And if you hit the teenager lottery and have a kid who loves to read with you, great! For the rest of us, here are some awesome stories to lure in even the most reluctant readers.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

If you have to beg them to put down their screens, the least you can do is offer a book about screens, right? Ready Player One came out a few years back and was an instant hit for its sci-fi take on teenagers of the future. A teenage orphan dives into a digital underground world to escape the real world. As a bonus, it’s a fun listen for anyone who played video games in the 1980s, making it a good cross-generational pick for your next trip.

Saint-Seducing Gold by Brittany N. Williams

The second book in the YA historical fantasy trilogy—the Forge & Fracture Saga—is a spectacular story featuring a heroine who’s truly out of this world. Magical metal worker Joan Sands has to survive deadly schemes while balancing her love life before humanity as she knows it is destroyed forever. Swashbuckling and romantic, this story will chase away any signs of summer boredom. 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Fans of Hatchet and Lord of the Flies will appreciate this real-life survival story about a young man who ventures off into the Alaskan wilderness alone. The book is a gripping saga about resilience, courage, and the natural world. Spoiler alert, though: This one, unfortunately, does not have a happy ending. 

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

This YA novel follows Lina, a high schooler who's sent to spend her summer in Italy with her father, due to her mother's dying wish. Lina’s road trip across Tuscany features sparkling prose and a world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. Perfect for any reader who has an appetite for adventure. 

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

If your crew loved Stranger Things, here’s a coming-of-age story with a supernatural vibe. A group of misfit kids spend an unforgettable summer investigating local ghost stories and urban legends. Bittersweet, with just the right amount of creepy, this one is sure to be a winner.

Otherworldly by F.T. Lukens

If you’re looking for a creative way to cool down during the dog days of summer, the characters in this cozy romantasy have been stuck in a five-year winter. A skeptic and a supernatural being get more than they bargained for in this lively YA romantic adventure. Full of likable, relatable characters and all the yearning of young love, your teens will like the angst and you’ll like the cuteness.

Running Mates by Emily Locker

In the quaint yet politically charged town of Edgartown, North Carolina, a liberal teenage girl gets involved with a conservative teenage boy. Written by Emily Locker, this YA novel deep dives into the complexities of activism. It is a great read (or listen) for anyone who wants a dose of empathy in their summer. 

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