Photo: Stratford School

As our country reopens and we trickle back into public spaces, many of us are appreciating the pleasure of spending time in our favorite “third places” – the neighborhood parks and cafes, public playgrounds and libraries that have long been part of our social environment. Our public libraries are re-opening, and even with reduced hours and access, their open doors signal the return to normal that we all crave and the optimism we are feeling.

To be sure, public libraries everywhere have sustained their multifaceted mission to promote literacy and access to information and serve as community centers for patrons of all ages. In March 2020, library staff pivoted quickly to online programming that has facilitated remote browsing and borrowing capacities ever since. According to OverDrive, which libraries use to loan out digital material, weekly e-book lending across the United States increased nearly fifty percent in the months following the shuttering of library buildings. Libraries continued to evolve, constantly expanding their repertoire of distance-learning services—from hosting virtual book festivals and outdoor readings to publishing “quaranzines” filled with community news.

But now our public libraries are reopening, and so many of our students have told us how delighted they are to be back in them—back to tactile browsing and face-to-face conversations, back to familiar and cozy corners in the library, to reading contests and free bookmarks that have riddles on them. (Indeed, one of my students mentioned the bookmarks!). Even with gratitude and full appreciation for the uninterrupted library services of the past difficult year, we die-hard library lovers are still SO grateful to be back in the library! If it has been some time since you were in a library, we encourage you to return to this “third place,” preferably for a leisurely visit with your children, during which you and they can savor time spent in the company of others—while satisfying an inquisitive impulse, feeding your mind or spirit.

The selection of books we have curated for summer reading are intentionally different from books children might read during the school year. Some are fanciful or fantasy (dogs that accompany their kid-owners to school, for example), most have pictures (illustrations and infographics, or graphic novels); and most can be read in short bursts, for example in the car or during thirty-minute reading bursts—which work especially well in building capacity in reluctant readers. We hope you will enjoy one or more of these books—or others you find while browsing library stacks or with the help of your local librarian. Have a lovely summer!

Grades Kindergarten to Second

The Rock From The Sky written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
A beautiful work of art with a hilarious story to go with it by Caldecott winner Jon Klassen. Turtle and Armadillo leave one stone unturned when it falls from the sky, right in Turtle’s favorite hangout spot. It’s a good thing he meandered out of the way in time! This inspires simple chats about the ever-changing landscape, including the potential ominous cryptid creatures that might make their way into their environment. It’s not really possible to perfectly sum up a Klassen book- it’s truly something one needs to experience to fully appreciate.

Have you Ever Seen A Flower written by Shawn Harris
Vividly drawn illustrations are the highlight of this absolutely perfect picture book. A young girl and her dog take a journey from the grey, drab city through bright fields of flowers, learning a lot about themselves and the wonder of nature on the way. Opens the way to discussions between parents and children about the importance of wildlife, beauty, flowers, bees and happiness.

Grades 3-4

Scientists Get Dressed written by Deborah Lee Rose
Have you ever wondered what kinds of clothing and personal equipment are needed for a volcanologist or a glaciologist? Eighteen different people are introduced with the gear they need to collect data for their scientific studies and protect themselves, and lots of facts about the things they research. Packed with photographs, the book uses two fonts and types of information, one for younger readers and one with more information for older readers.

Two Dogs in a Trenchcoat (series) written by Julie Falatko
Hilarious stories about dogs that wear clothes so they can attend school with their owners. Dog antics and adventures include starting a school club, going on a class trip, and even participating in a school play.

DK Findout! (series) written by various authors
The tagline for this series of 30 books is, “what do you want to find out?”  Each volume focuses on one topic, including time-tested favorites like understanding the human body, dinosaurs, and Ancient Egypt. The content is conveyed in short paragraphs, captions, fast facts, and brief interviews—both real (with subject experts) and imagined (with a historic figure). Fun to read aloud, this series will have children begging to read.

Grades 5-8

Me and the World: An Infographic Exploration written by Mireia Trius, Illustrated by Joana Casals
This fascinating book pairs visual literacy with data literacy, using colorful illustrations and infographics to present information in a way that’s easy to understand. The infographics focus on personal things like family structure, most popular names, and breakfast foods in different places in our world. It also looks more broadly at things like world population, city populations, traffic in cities, schools and homework. There are more light-hearted infographics including most popular dog breeds, summer vacations, and sports.

Click (series) written by Kayla Miller
This graphic novel has an introspective approach, as we follow 5th grader Olive on her search for the perfect friend group. While she is friends with everyone, she realizes she hasn’t “clicked” with anyone in particular and doesn’t have a “bestie.” She ultimately determines that she can find happiness both within herself and in her different groups of friends. Three more novels, Camp, Act and Clash continue the story with diverse characters and issues of love, friendship, and family.

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feature image via iStock