100 Books for Summer Reading {Quality KidLit, Family Read-Alouds, and Entertaining Audiobooks}


100 books for summer reading - books open up a whole new world!Summer is just around the corner, and lots of kids participate in summer reading programs at the library. This is a great list to take with you to the library to help your child find new and good quality books for summer reading.

I have always loved to read, and to my deepest pride and greatest satisfaction, my son loves to read too. And being a homeschool family, we have lots of opportunities to read lots of books. We use a very literature-dense curriculum so we have read mountains of books — books that I wish someone had read to me when I was a kid or told me to pick up and read myself. 

You can find a multitude of “books for kids” posts online, but after a while they all start to look the same . . . Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter, Diary of Anne Frank . . . the same books over and over. And honestly, I don’t think some of them should be on a top list (I’m looking at you, Junie B. Jones and Diary of a Wimpy Kid . . .) This list is not based on sales, accolades, or awards. It’s just one mom and what she has enjoyed reading with her son the past five years. I hope you find this list to be a little different (though it does have a good smattering of well-known and loved books!) Besides, what other list will tell you which ones to read TO your kids, which ones they should read, and which ones are best enjoyed on audio?

In the For Kids to Read section, you’ll find quality stories for a varied range of reading/interest levels — but mostly in the range of 3rd – 6th grade.   I tried to make the family read-aloud list and audio book list appealing and appropriate for the whole family to enjoy, but the “For Kids to Read” list will be dependent on your child’s interest and reading level so as a parent, I would take a close look at the book before deciding if it’s something your child would be interested in. (Example: while most 3rd grade-aged children would enjoy books like Socks and Justin Morgan Had a Horse, they may not be ready for the “thrilling” aspects of books like Fuzzy Mud or The Secret of the Sealed Room or the themes/topics in the March series. While I feel confident that there isn’t anything in the books on the list that anyone would find inappropriate (we screen for that in our house!), there is a big gap in what a 3rd grader and a 6th grader can process in literature.  

See also: Simple Ways to Raise Readers

I also believe in the value of reading aloud. I read books aloud to my son that I think he might not otherwise read (or sometimes to get him interested in a series!) I also read books that are above his own reading level to expose him to a different level of writing, vocabulary, and thought. I also read books aloud to him that contain subject matter or events that are worth discussing together. And sometimes, I just read aloud to him because no matter how old you get, there is value in sitting close to Mom and listening to stories from Winnie-the-Pooh or James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. In the Family Read-Alouds section, you’ll find books that I think the whole family could benefit from having Mom or Dad read aloud to them. As long as your children can listen to a book with no pictures, there is little to no age limit on who these stories are best for.

See also: {Book Review} The Read-Aloud Family

We also listen to a lot of books on audio so we can squeeze in more books when we’re on the go. And some books are just better when read by a professional. In the Best Audio Books section, you’ll find books that are great for the whole family, like in the read-aloud section. But, I selected these books because I feel like the audio versions enhance the stories. We get books on CD to listen to in the car. You can also stream them from the library or through Audible on your own devices. They are perfectly fine as regular read-aloud books — we just really enjoyed them on audio!

Audio books are great for those summer road trips!

See also: Tips for a Successful Road Trip with Kids

How did I pick the books in this list?

First, I didn’t add any books that we haven’t personally read in our house. So don’t balk if your favorite isn’t on the list — we probably just haven’t gotten to it yet, and I’d love to hear about it in the comments so we can add it to our “to-read” list!  Second, I chose books that had any combination of quality writing/vocabulary, rich characters, historical value, life lessons, and overall enjoyable stories.

I’m also very much a “the book is better than the movie” type person, so many of these titles you will recognize as popular movies. Read the book first.

For this list, I didn’t shy away from series or multiple books by the same author. If an author is a good author with good books, I certainly didn’t want to limit the list to just one of his/her books. This list does not include younger children’s picture books. That’s an entirely different list for another day.

For Kids to Read

1. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

2. Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry

3. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater

4. The School Story by Andrew Clements

5. Frindle by Andrew Clements

6. Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

7. Phoebe the Spy by Judith Griffin

8. A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla

9. Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla

10. The Littles by John Peterson

11. The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

12. Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker

13. A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman

14. The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong

15. Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates

16. The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

17. Calico Bush by Rachael Field

18. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

19. Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

20. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (and subsequent Ralph Mouse books) by Beverly Cleary

21. Socks by Beverly Cleary

22. Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield

23. Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat

24. The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren

25. Happy Times in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren is most known for Pippi Longstocking, but don’t overlook these delightful stories!

26. Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

27. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

28. March by John Lewis

This is a series of three books and the only graphic novels to make the list. It’s a true account of the life of John Lewis during the Civil Rights Movement. My son plowed through these books in a couple days experiencing equal parts shock, awe, and sadness that these things happened and admiration for those who fought for change.

29. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli

30. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth Speare

31. Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea by Lisa & Valerie Martin

32. The Incredible Journey by Shelia Burnford

My generation knows this story as the movie Homeward Bound, but we have a chance to introduce the next generation to the book first. Then watch the movie because it’s a totally great family movie.

33. The Secret of the Sealed Room by Bailey MacDonald

This is a fictional story about an adventure that a young Ben Franklin could have had. It was just enough mystery, intrigue, and potential danger for a kid just ready for those types of things in a book. This author has a second book and I can’t wait to try it!

34. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar 

For older readers, for sure, but an exciting mystery story. We couldn’t put this one down!

35. Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran by Kenneth Thomasma

36. The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

37. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Wagner 

I didn’t care for later books in the series, but the first one is a classic that should be on every kid’s reading list. Great for children just starting chapter books!

38. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol 

A great intro to mysteries, this series is like The Boxcar Children — it’s something even the current generation of kids need cultural knowledge of. And if they enjoy the first one, there are plenty more Encyclopedia Brown adventures to enjoy!

39. The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate

40. Red Sails to Capri by Ann Weil

41. Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred P. Taylor 

42. Toliver’s Secret by Esther Brady

43. The Giver by Lois Lowry

44. Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop

45. The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh

46. The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh

47. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

48. Five True Dog Stories by Margaret Davidson

49. The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz

Family Read-Alouds

50. The Apple and the Arrow by Mary & Conrad Buff 

The legend of William Tell as told by his 12-year-old son.

51. Capyboppy by Bill Peet

52. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson 

While I am all for reading books as they were originally written, there are many versions of this book adapted for young readers/listeners. It’s been in print steadily for 125+ years and for good reason — it’s a swashbuckling good time!

53. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett 

This is actually a trilogy, so if your kids like this one they can keep going. We lost interest by the third one, but we still really enjoyed the first.

54. Paddington by Michael Bond

55. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

56. Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne

57. Tales of Robin Hood 

There are plenty of Robin Hood books out there, but we particularly like the version by Usborne Publishing.

58. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

59. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

61. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

62. A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett 

I wavered back and forth on which list to put this one on. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it aloud and there is ample room for discussion. Also, this book was far better than its movie.

63. James Herriot’s Treasury for Children 

Delightful animal stories with happy endings.

64. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes 

A story of a silversmith’s apprentice during the time of revolt in Boston and the early days of the Revolution. It’s packed full of history with a side of mystery and lessons in humility, justice, friendship, courage, and patriotism along the way — which is why I think it’s best read together.

65. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare 

Another one that has a lot of room for discussion when read together.

66. White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry 

This is one I’m always hesitant to suggest, but we found the writing to be beautiful in the way the author could describe the horses — I felt like I could reach out and touch them. And if you do your research before you read, you’ll discover that the White Stallions are real; they are really in Vienna and they really dance. 

67. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

68. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

69. Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling

70. Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling

71. The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

Best Audio Books

72. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo 

A very popular book to read, but the audio version is wonderful!

73. – 76. Gooney Bird Greene series by Lois Lowry 

These books could easily go under any section of this list, but I picked audio because we had such a great time listening to them. Gooney Bird Greene, Gooney Bird and the Room Mother, Gooney the Fabulous, and Gooney Bird Is So Absurd are available in one audio collection. They are super funny and would be great for a road trip to keep everyone laughing (and not whining!)

77. – 80. In Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson 

These are great in book form, but we loved listening to them on audio. The chapters are short, stand-alone stories and we could usually get through one or two easily in the car, even on short errands. They have great lessons and nuggets of wisdom in each chapter, and we still giggle at the story about all the aprons!

81. – 88. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder 

Yes, the whole series all the way to These Happy Golden Years and including Farmer Boy. The whole series is narrated by the same person, Cherry Jones, who does an amazing job, and the fiddle music when Pa plays the fiddle really makes the story come alive.

89. Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck 

A tale of a family of mice stowaways on an adventurous ship’s journey, set in the late 19th Century. Lots of fun for the whole family.

90. The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck 

The sequel to Secrets at Sea (above). If you’re going to read a story about a mouse that lives in Buckingham Palace, you might as well listen to the audio version to get the full effect with all the British accents.

91. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White 

Read by the author, we enjoy this book more than another title E.B. White is known for . . .

92. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

93. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle 

We tried this one as a read-aloud but found it much more enjoyable as audio. Also a good choice for kids to read, but it was fun to experience together. Lots of great discussions from this one!

94. – 100. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

I feel like this one needs no explanation as it as a popular family read-aloud, but I picked it for audio because we were able to listen to the entire series faster than we could read it. And The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe narrated by Michael York is just wonderful to listen to. And yes, you need to read the whole series. 

What will your kids/family be reading or listening to this summer? Tell us in the comments!