Summer Reading for Children Entering 1st Grade

After kindergarten, many children have learned the fundamentals of reading and are excited to tackle new skills in first grade. Even when children have learned to read on their own though, it is still important to read to them. For this reason, I have included both picture books and easy reader in my summer reading list.

Reading aloud is not only a wonderful time to bond with your child, but it is an opportunity to share rich vocabulary, model fluency, and introduce books that open their eyes and imaginations to new worlds . The below picture books are meant to be read together with a caregiver.

EASY READERS are listed below the picture books to help new readers practice their literacy skills.

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PICTURE BOOKS

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Juan Martinez-Neal, 2020

Swashby, a retired captain, prefers to live his life alone with his only friend, the sea. One day his peacefulness is interrupted by an exuberant young girl and her grandmother who move in next door. He tries to convince them to leave him alone with messages in the sand, but when parts of the message are swept away by the ocean, they have an entirely new meaning.

The gorgeous illustrations are perfectly paired with the playful text that provides a whimsical feeling to this sweet tale of intergenerational friendship.

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Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Harry Bliss, 2007

Using a diary format, a fly captures her everyday adventures starting school, spending time with friends, and learning life lessons. Sprinkled with puns and fun facts about flies, this charming book is a real winner. I also highly recommend Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider.

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Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016

Blaise Dragomir and George Slair have been assigned as pen pals for a school project. Although each is a reluctant writer, they are surprised by how much they enjoy writing to each other. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that Blaise is a dragon and George is a boy!

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Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don’t)! by Barbara Bottner; illustrated by Michael Emberley, 2010

When a first-grade girl expresses her dislike of books, her exuberant librarian does everything she can to help her find the magic in stories. Full of humor, cartoony illustrations, and the knowledge that there is a perfect book out there for everyone, this is a tale that book lovers and reluctant readers will all enjoy. 

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Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts, 2016

(Ages 4 and up)

The rhyming text tells the story of Ada Twist, a curious little girl who asks questions and creates science experiments to better understand how the world around her works. This is a great story of perseverance and will serve as inspiration to other budding scientists. We love this entire series and also highly recommend Rosie Revere Engineer, Iggy Peck Architect, and Sophia Valdez Future Prez.

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A Normal Pig by K-Fai Steele, 2019

(Ages 4 – 8)

Pip feels like a normal pig until a new pig comes to school and makes her question the things she likes. Her observant mother notices something is wrong and takes Pip to the city where she discovers the splendor of diversity. Upon returning to school, Pip has gained a new perspective and confidence to embrace the things she enjoys.

This brilliant story takes a realistic scenario and helps reinforce in children the importance of celebrating differences and individuality. This is one that is sure to spark several important discussions about anti-bullying.

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Blackout by John Rocco, 2011

On a hot summer night, a blackout causes a family to abandon their electrical devices and enjoy quality time together. The stunning illustrations playing with light and dark earned John Rocco a Caldecott Honor for this outstanding book.

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Scaredy Squirrel (series) by Melanie Watt, 2007

This humorous story follows an anxious squirrel who is afraid to leave his tree. When he drops his emergency kit, however, he is forced to venture out of his comfort zone and learns an important lesson in trying new things.

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The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Manley Curtis, 2016

(Ages 4 – 8)

This book makes me laugh every time I read it. Nick loves books so much that he decides to teach his cats to read as well. While Verne eagerly works with Nick, Stevenson, portrayed as a grumpy gray cat, is quite resistant. The charming illustrations comically capture Stevenson’s initial displeasure and delightfully reveal his true talent. Both book lovers and reluctant readers won’t be able to resist this droll story!

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Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, 2018

Hello Lighthouse transports readers to another time when lighthouses required keepers to faithfully tend to them to ensure the safety of ships passing by. While life inside the lighthouse remains mostly quiet, the illustrations skillfully capture the changing of the skies and sea morphing from blue to black, calm to stormy. All the while, the lighthouse attendant keeps his log and maintains the lighthouse. The gorgeous Chinese ink and watercolor pictures perfectly compliment the nostalgic feel of the book and earned Sophie Blackall her second Caldecott Medal.

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Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesdays by Jon Stahl; illustrated by Tadgh Bentley, 2019

I don’t know who loves this book more, my kids or me! When two monsters argue over how to tell a story, their imaginations come to life for one unique tale featuring a hungry dragon and a brave and clever damsel. It is a fantastic story to inspire future writers. Teachers and parents are not going to want to miss this one!

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Chicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt; illustrated by Shahar Kober, 2016

While the other chickens peck around the farm, Zoey has dreams, a plan, and a pig named Sam. She is going to outer space and she isn’t going to let any other farmyard naysayers stop her. Zoey’s positive attitude, problem solving abilities, and wild imagination lead her and Sam to the adventure of a lifetime.

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Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, 2017

Jabari has just finished his swim lessons and is now ready to tackle the high dive at his local pool. Jabari appears confident, but hesitates when it is his turn to climb onto the diving board. First, he needs to rest, then he needs to stretch, then he decides that maybe tomorrow is a better day for jumping. His dad pulls him aside for some sound advice. “It’s okay to feel a little scared. Sometimes, if I feel a little scared, I take a deep breath and tell myself I am ready. And you know what? Sometimes it stops feeling scary and feels a little like a surprise.” With his father’s encouragement, Jabari pushes is fear aside and takes the plunge ready for a “surprise double back-flip” as his next jump.

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 by Jamie L. B. Deenihan; illustrated by Lorraine Rocha, 2019⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

When a little girl receives a lemon tree for her birthday, she is initially disappointed that she didn’t get the robot dog, computer, or remote-control car she was hoping for. The plucky protagonist doesn’t let it get her down, however, and proceeds to make the best of her situation demonstrating resilience and self-reliance.

This outstanding book uses humorous text and illustrations to engage children and then effortlessly weaves in themes of hard work, patience, and community without being overly didactic. It even includes a lemonade recipe to inspire future entrepreneurs!

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 by Jory John; illustrated by Pete Oswald, 2019

An adorable egg strives to be perfect and helpful in every way despite his crate mates who are quite naughty. When the pressure of being the good egg causes him to literally crack up, he realizes he needs a little self-care. This amusing book is an excellent reminder that no one is perfect and they shouldn’t have to be!

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Draw! By Raul Colon, 2014

Named one of New York Times Best Illustrated Books, Draw, is a beautiful celebration of creativity and art. This wordless wonder stars a boy whose asthma causes him to be confined to his room. Inspired by books on Africa, he fills his sketch pad with animals that come to life in his imagination.

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Ocean: Waves for All by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Stevie Lewis, 2020

A personified ocean greets readers and shares many fun facts including how the sea is home to the biggest mammal in the world and the longest mountain range. With engaging artwork and fascinating details sprinkled in, this is an entertaining and educational story. We also love the other books in the Our Universe series.

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Give Bees A Chance by Bethany Barton, 2017

Bethany Barton has discovered the perfect mix of information, humor, and clever illustrations to bring nonfiction books alive to children. Give Bees A Chance skillfully presents interesting facts about bees with a comical dialogue between an unseen narrator and a boy who is terrified of bees.

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EASY READERS

Because children graduate kindergarten reading at a variety of levels, I’ve included an assortment of easy readers ranging from those with simple sentences to stories with more dialogue and complex vocabulary.

Many of the below books are part of a series. If your reader enjoys the first book, I suggest finding more in the same series to continue their enthusiasm for reading.

 

Flubby Is Not a Good Pet by J.E. Morris, 2019

Flubby is a lovable, lazy cat who prefers to do things her own way. When her owner attempts to teach her tricks, they both discover that there is more to being a good pet than following directions. The simple sentences are perfectly paired with amusing illustrations that skillfully capture Flubby’s comical expressions.  Lexile 140

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What This Story Needs Is a Pig In A Wig (series) by Emma J. Virjan, 2015

This book is such a fun and silly way to for children to practice a variety of vowel sounds. Rhyming words are paired together and there are visual clues to help readers identify new words.  This is a comical story that has a sweet message of friendship and inclusion that makes it a standout in this genre. 

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Stop! Bot! by James Yang, 2019

Winner of the 2020 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for most distinguished American book for beginning readers, Stop! Bot! combines large pictures with easy-to-read dialogue to create an entertaining story for new readers. Children will love following along as a boy’s drone unexpectantly flies up a tall building and the residents each try to catch it using surprising techniques. Lexile: AD250L / Fountas & Pinnell: G

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A Pig, A Fox and a Box by Jonathan Fenske, 2015

This Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor book stars a mischievous fox whose clever jokes on his friend, Pig, backfire with humorous results. Readers with a quirky sense of humor will enjoy this funny rhyming book. Lexile: 210L / Guided Reading Level: H

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Mr. Monkey (series) by Jeff Mack, 2018

The Mr. Monkey series repeats words often and slowly introduces new vocabulary all while using visual clues from the comical illustrations. While Mr. Monkey can be pretty clumsy and silly at times, he also demonstrates resilience and always tries his best, attributes that I try to reinforce in my own children. The action-packed illustrations are full of physical comedy and had my children laughing out loud. Lexile: 220L / Fountas & Pinnell: I

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Should I Share My Ice Cream? (The Elephant and Piggie series) by Mo Willems, 2011

I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. In this hilarious installment, Gerald has a big decision to make. He is excited to eat his ice cream, but then considers that his best friend, Piggie, might want to share it with him. What ensues is a laugh-out-loud struggle between the benefits of splitting the delicious dessert or not. Lexile: 260L / Fountas & Pinnell: H

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Duck, Duck, Porcupine (series) by Salina Yoon, 2016

In this Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor-winning series, readers meet a trio of adorable animals who share amusing exploits in three short stories. Since one of the characters, Little Duck, doesn’t speak, children refine their visual literacy and inference skills observing Little Duck’s actions and expressions. Colorful, bold pictures fill the pages while the stories are told through speech bubbles displaying simple text and accessible plot lines. These sweet books have just the right amount of humor and cuteness to make them a good choice for beginning reader collections.   Lexile: AD390L 340/ Fountas & Pinnell: H

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Hi Jack! (series) by Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli, 2019

Hi Jack! begins like so many other easy readers, but takes a drastic turn when an adorable bunny, Jack, gets into some serious mischief. While Jack is certainly not the best role model, my son finds his antics absolutely hilarious, which helped him become more excited about reading on his own. With simple sentences, a low word count, words repeated throughout the story, engaging illustrations that provide pictorial clues, plus a plot with off-beat humor, this is a good selection for reluctant readers.

Current books in the series created by an award-winning author and illustrator follow this naughty bunny as he meets new friends, travels into space, goes on a trip to the Old West, plays in a baseball game, and visits the zoo.

Each book gets more difficult in the series and ranges in lexile level from 190L – 350L.

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Snail and Worm (series) by Tina Kügler, 2016

With its engaging illustrations, this sweet easy reader series is perfect for growing readers or for sharing as a read aloud. Told through three short chapters, readers will delight in the amusing antics of snail and worm as they navigate friendship and life as small creatures in a big world. Each story is clever, quirky, and perfect for kids. The characters’ comical facial expressions are not only hilarious, but they also help guide new readers on the tone to use when reading the dialogue. Lexile: 370L

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Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier, 2018

Told through dialogue, three short chapters follow unlikely friends Fox and Chick as they prepare for a party, cook soup, and paint a portrait. With its colorful illustrations and amusing plot lines mixed with easy to read words combined with more difficult vocabulary sprinkled in, this is a good choice for new readers not quite ready for chapter books. Lexile: 370L / Fountas & Pinnell: K

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Don’t Worry, Bee Happy (Bumble and Bee series) by Ross Burach, 2019

Three short chapters follow two exuberant bees and their best friend, a grumpy frog, through several comical scenarios. Brightly colored illustrations appear in large graphic-novel-like panels and most of the text is displayed through speech bubbles. Each character has their own colored speech bubble, so it is easy to follow. The animated illustrations paired with the funny dialogue effortlessly lead children to read with expression.

The bees’ enthusiasm is perfectly paired against the frog’s impassive stares and comments making this a book that my seven-year-old son wanted to read aloud multiple times. This book is part of the Scholastic Acorn line intended for children ages four to seven and contain an excellent combination of easy-to-read text, color illustrations, and engaging storylines featuring friendship stories, humor, and magic. Lexile: 350L / Fountas & Pinnell: H

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Cake and Monkey (series) Drew Daywalt, 2019

In his new easy reader series, Drew Daywalt, author of The Day the Crayons Quit, uses his quirky sense of humor to help children practice their reading skills while also challenging them to think more deeply. These books star an anthropomorphic Cake and Monkey who are close friends despite the clear difference in their personalities. They explore concepts of inclusion, imagination, and a lost tooth. Lexile: 260L – 330L

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Hi! Fly Guy (series) by Tedd Arnold, 2006

The funny story of a boy named Buzz and his pet fly is a go-to for teachers and librarians for reluctant new readers. There are almost twenty books in this series and my son has enjoyed every one. The stories are usually full of imagination, silly antics, and loyal friendship between a boy and his pet. Lexile: 380L/ Fountas & Pinnell: I

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Unlimited Squirrels series by Mo Willems, 2018

Mo Willems’ hilarious new easy reader series, Unlimited Squirrels, weaves in his signature style of humor with exciting childhood themes and milestones such as losing a tooth and learning to read. Filled with comical word play, children and adults alike will giggle at the funny squirrels and their hijinks.

My own new reader loves this comical new series that is full of amusing adventures, corny jokes, and fascinating facts! Lexile: 420L

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What About Worms (Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series) by Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020

An adorable tiger brags about his braveness, but admits that his one fear is worms. A comical sequence of events reveal that a group of worms are also scared of tigers until they learn more about them. This is a fantastic new addition to the lovable Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series.

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I also highly recommend checking out the other books in the series:

We Are Growing by Laurie Keller – Lexile: 270L

The Good For Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper – Lexile: 210L / Fountas & Pinnell: I

Harold and Hog Pretend for Real by Dan Santat- Lexile: 270L

The Itchy Book by LeUyen Pham – Lexile: 340L

The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat- Lexile: 290L

It’s Shoe Time by Bryan Collier  – Lexile: 210L

 

Amanda Pig, First Grader (Oliver and Amanda series) by Jean Van Leeuwen

This adorable story follows Amanda Pig through her first few days of first grade. She is initially disappointed by her struggle to read, but as she practices, her confidence grows and she is elated when she can read her first books. Lexile: 480L

 

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If your little reader is looking for more books to read on their own, check out the following lists.

 

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