Once summer hits, the pool cover is off, and the school bells go silent, it can be tough convincing kids that reading season does not need to be over. Getting your preteen in the habit of reading even when there won't be a test sets them up for a lifetime of picking up books just because, in addition to all the benefits (including a more expansive vocabulary, improved writing skills, and even a better understanding of other cultures) that go along with it.
With that in mind, we've rounded up a list of time-tested works, as well as some new ones, that are bound to get even the most reading-averse kid interested in books this summer.
1. "The BFG" - Roald Dahl (1982)
What good is a young reader’s book list without a little Dahl? Everyone's favorite whimsical wordsmith has a seemingly endless list of works perfect for kids getting into their first chapter books ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Matilda," "The Twits," and I could go on and on). But "The BFG" is one of the few that isn't available in a Hollywood-ized form, and features a plot that's absent from most English curriculums: Giants exist, and they eat children.
It's all a bit lighter than it sounds. The story, about an unlikely friendship between a young orphan and the biggest, friendliest, most non-murderous of the giants, doesn't contain as many higher-level themes as most of the books on this list, but it drives home the idea that reading doesn't need to be a dull affair.
2. "Coraline" - Neil Gaiman (2002)
A dark, eerie work (y'know, for a children's book), author Neil Gaiman's Hugo Award-winning "Coraline" follows a young girl who discovers an alternate dimension, where everything seems just a little bit better — except for the part where her parents' eyes have been replaced by buttons. The original book, which was published in 2002, has since been made into an equally well-crafted and eye-catching (3D!) movie, and touches on themes including bravery, identity, and the importance of family.
3. "The Giver" - Lois Lowry (1993)
Over the last two decades, Lois Lowry's "The Giver" has served as an introduction to the power of science fiction as a means of cultural critique for a generation of young readers — although, kids are probably more drawn to the book's bright protagonist being at odds with the adult world than anything else.
Centered around a boy who is appointed to possess all of his "perfect" community's beautiful and horrific memories, "The Giver" is a worthy entry-level novel for kids that might go on to enjoy the work of literary masters like Ray Bradbury and George Orwell later in life. (Sidenote: It’s soon to be a major motion picture.)
4. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - J.K. Rowling (1997)
So what if they've already seen the movie? There's a reason this fantasy classic got an entire generation devoted to poking their noses in books ... and made roughly a bajillion dollars, and led to its own theme park, and an entire industry, etc. Not only are the topics of magic, benevolent vs. malevolent forces, and good ol' awkward adolescence timelessness, but Rowling is a clever writer (quite frankly, a head above some other popular YA authors out there) who knows better than to treat her young audience with kid gloves.
5. "The Little Prince" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)
One of the highest-selling, most widely-adapted books ever written, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's animated novella "The Little Prince" brings a light, children's book touch to complex themes like loneliness, loss, and wrestling with the vast imperfections of life on planet earth. The tale centers around a pilot who, after a plane wreck in the Sahara Desert, meets a "Little Prince" from another planet. As they share tales about life in their respective worlds, the two strike a beautiful friendship.
6. "The Real Boy" - Anne Ursu (2013)
Released just last year, author Anne Ursu's "The Real Boy" follows the life of an eleven-year-old magician's assistant (real wizardy magic, not David Blain slight-of-hand magic) named Oscar as his comfortable life on an island is upturned by mysterious outside forces.
The book's themes, including stepping outside of your comfort zone and bravery in the face of adversity, are universal, and Oscar's magical world serves as a great entry point. Also, Ursu is an immensely fragrant and funny writer who's bound to grab young readers with her wry voice. ("The apprentice's name was Wolf, because sometimes the universe is an unsubtle place.")
Clark, Christina , and Kate Rumbold. "Reading for pleasure: A research overview.” National Literacy Trust. Web. 14 June 2014. Retrieved from National Literary Trust.