Many students get a list of required reading for the summer from their schools. I usually try and read each and every book that is required for the schools that are local to me. I also have come up with some suggestions myself.
Today I am going to focus on the mid-range reading levels of 4th through 8th grade. Notice I identified it as reading level. This does not necessarily equate to the grade in school. It is only frustrating to a child to be forced to read something above their level. After all, the focus for summer reading should be many things, but frustrating isn't one of them.
First on my list is Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. This is the first book in a series. So, if a student enjoys this book it becomes a natural springboard for reading many other books. The main character in this book is Harriet, who is a spy. She keeps all of her information in her notebook. What happens when she loses the book?? It ends up in the wrong hands and before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together? There are many great lessons in this book and also a few laughs. Honesty, integrity, friendship and trust are topics that are great for discussions about life.
Next on my list is Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Del. This book is an eerie yet miraculous story about a young Indian girl who spends 18 years alone on a rocky island off the coast of California. It takes place in the early 1800s and is a story of how Karana forages on land and in the ocean, clothes herself, and secures shelter. Perhaps even more startlingly, she finds strength and serenity living alone on the island.
Another book about the tenacity of a young person alone and living in the wild is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. This was one of my mother's favorite books, which shows the ageless appeal. It is the story of a city boy named Sam Gribley, who runs away from New York City to the solitude of the woods in the Catskill Mountain in upstate New York and survives on his own, while learning skills and finding abilities in himself that he never knew existed. There are two sequels to this book that most readers can't wait to read after finishing this initial book.
Keeping with the theme of surviving in the wilderness is my next choice for this summer. It is a non-fiction story about Alexander Selkirk in 1704. He was on a ship that was traversing the South Pacific and after arguing with a ship's captain, he was put ashore and abandoned on an uninhabited island. He had little with him besides his musket, but he managed to survive and even thrive for four years. The book is called Marooned: The Strange but True Adventures of Alexander Selkirk, the Real Robinson Crusoe by Robert Kraske
The last two are personal favorites of mine. First, one is a biography about Laura Bridgman. I first read about her when I was in the third grade and she made such an impression on me that I read and re-read everything that I could find about her for years to come. She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer by Robert Alexander and Sally Hobart Alexander is a very well written story about the girl who became the teacher of Annie Sullivan. Annie Sullivan in turn became the teacher of Helen Keller.
And finally, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I first read this book with a student about 10 years ago. If you are a dog lover, like I am, you will be enthralled with this book and not be able to put it down. It is the story of a young boy who saves his money for a long time to be able to buy hunting dogs. The relationship between Billy and his two hounds, Old Dan and Little Ann, is priceless and will make the reader laugh and cry.