Somehow, summer is just around the corner. Reading is a wonderful way to maintain those hard-earned skills developed during the school year, all while encouraging imagination and building empathy at the same time. But staring down shelves and shelves of books at the library or bookstore can be intimidating. Never fear, that’s why I’m here! I’ve broken down my recommendations based on reading level, and included fun reading programs where kids can earn prizes for their reading as well. But summer reading isn’t just for kids — whether you want to read alongside your bookworm or your own book adjacent to them, I’ve included titles I recommend for the grownups, too (and there’s even prizes for grownups!). Full reviews are available through titles with links!
Chapter books are great for first and second graders, as they are growing more comfortable reading on their own. Library/bookstore tip: Look for the Branches logo on the book’s spine. Branches is an imprint of Scholastic, and we have had excellent luck with their titles.
- Dragon Masters series by Tracy West
- The Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman
- Diary of a Pug series by Kyla May
Middle Grade Books
These titles are for readers who are comfortable reading independently, and have more mature themes than chapter books. Many of these novels are so engaging and well-written, you may likely enjoy it just as much as your kid!
- Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend by Katie Zhao
- From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
- We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly **Erin Entrada Kelly will be at Knoxville’s Children’s Festival of Reading!**
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- Anybody Here Seen Frenchie? by Leslie Connor
- Long Lost by Jacqueline West (warning: this one is spooky!)
- Shine On, Luz Véliz! by Rebecca Balcárcel
- I Can Make this Promise by Christine Day
- Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac
- A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée
- The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters
- Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
Whether the pages look more like a long-form comic book or simply include illustrations to aid the storytelling, these novels are a great option for reluctant readers or those who are intimidated by books that grow in size as they age.
- New Kid by Jerry Craft
- The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Aimed at those 13+, YA titles have more mature language and themes.
- Year on Fire by Julie Buxbaum
- Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
- Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Lietich Smith
- This May End Badly by Samantha Markum
- A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions by Sheena Boekweg
- Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
- Where it All Lands by Jennie Wexler
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
For the Grownups
- Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez
- Sari Not Sari by Sonya Singh
- Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ashcroft
- Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman
- 500 Miles from You by Jenny Colgan
- Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
- The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller
- The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
- The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal
- Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
- I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
- The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews
- The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Book Reward Programs
Knox County Library is aiming to have us read one million hours! Kids and adults alike can participate via the Beanstack app. There are multiple phases to the program. Full information can be found here, but kids and adults alike win prizes for reading!
Pizza Hut has brought back their BookIt! Program! Remember the joy of reading to earn free pizza? Now you get to set their goal! When they complete their reading goal, they get a coupon for a free personal pan pizza. More information here.
Barnes and Noble has an annual summer reading program where kids earn free books! Simply read eight books and fill out their log, then turn it in to any Barnes and Noble and get a free book from their list of titles. Full information here, and printable book log here.