Getting Children to Read This Summer

Getting Children to Read This Summer

By Theresa Fagan

Theresa Fagan has eight children. She is currently working on the second volume of A Mother’s List of Books. This article appeared on-line at on May 23rd, 2008 and is worth the read. Enjoy the many wholesome books Mrs. Fagan recommends.

It’s summer at last, and school is over. As my children say, “Now we get to read what we want.” Wonderful books abound, and finding them has never been easier.

Many are old, but are much too good to be forgotten. Out of print? Not in the library? You can find these treasures on Alibris and Amazon.

So here, from our family to yours, are some of our favorite books.

Though grouped loosely by reading level, the books will interest readers of all ages. Yesterday our college daughter, riding to work on the metro, was laughing aloud over Bill Peet’s Autobiography with its big print and playful illustrations. She was the only adult reading a “kids’ book” and probably the only one so thoroughly enjoying herself.


The memorable stories and the quality illustrations in these books are delightful. Naughty Nancy and others by John Goodall are out of print and impossibly expensive, but still are worth hunting down. The humor in One Summer at Grandmother’s House will probably appeal mostly to women.

Autobiography—–Bill Peet
Chester: The Wordly Pig, etc. —–Bill Peet
Piper—–Emma Chichester Clark
One Summer at Grandmother’s House—–Poupa Montaufier
The Owl and the Pussycat—–Edward Lear, illustrated by Jan Brett
Edith and Mr. Bear—–Dare Wright
Eloise—– Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight
Naughty Nancy, etc. —–John Goodall (wordless, funny, works of art)


When I was nine and resisting reading, my mother handed me Enid Blyton’s Five Go to Smuggler’s Top. That book turned me into a passionate reader. Of Blyton’s 800 titles, you can find her “Most Popular Works” on Wikipedia. They are a wonderful alternative to Harry Potter. The Cowboy Sam series holds the interest of beginners (girls, too) who need practice reading aloud.

Shadow the Sheep Dog, etc. —–Enid Blyton (lovely story not listed on Wikipedia)
The Hundred Dresses—–Eleanor Estes
The Sword in the Tree; Singing Sam, etc. —–Clyde Robert Bulla
Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, etc. —–Edward Ardizzone
The Adventures of Tin Tin, etc. —–Herge
A Triumph for Flavius—–Caroline Dale Snedeker
Incredible True Adventures, etc. —–Don L. Wulffson
Kentucky Derby Champion (alternate title: Old Bones, the Wonder Horse)—–Pace
Secret Missions—–Ellen Levine
No Room for a Dog; No Children, No Pets, etc. —–Marion Holland
Jet Getaway and Other Amazing Escapes—–Thomas Gunning
Amazing Rescues: 3 True Rescue Stories—–George Shea
Snow Treasure—–Marie McSwigan
Cowboy Sam—–Edna Walker Chandler (Alibris offers more than Amazon)
Jeb Stuart; Jim Bridger; Jim Bowie—–Gertrude H. Winders


The last five in this section are nonfiction. Little Britches positively shines with strong family and father-son relationships.

Sabre Pilot, etc. —–Stephen Meader (boys love his books)
Dangerous Journey—–Laszlo Hamori
The Singing Cave—–Eilis Dillon
Dead Man’s Light—–Scott Corbett (found on Alibris)
Banner in the Sky—–James Ramsey Ullman
Old Yeller—–Frank Gipson
Carry on, Mr. Bowditch—–Jean Latham
Buckskin Brigade—–Jim Kjelgaard
The Man Who Bought Himself—–Peggy Mann
Owls in the Family—–Farley Mowat (excellent read aloud)
Little Britches (lst of a series of 8)—–Ralph Moody


The last two in this section are nonfiction.

A Girl of the Limberlost—–Gene Stratton Porter
The Wind Blows Free—–Loula Grace Erdman
Daddy-Long-Legs—–Jean Webster
Understood Betsy——-Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Good Master, etc. —–Kate Seredy
Adopted Jane—–Helen F. Daringer
From Anna; Mine For Keeps; Spring Begins in March—–Jean Little
Little by Little—–Jean Little
Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio—–Peg Kehret


Inspiring examples from true life can help teenagers get beyond themselves and put their problems into proper perspective. The following stories are unforgettable.

Donbas—–Jacques Sandulescu
Tower of Secrets—–Victor Sheymov
Beyond Defeat—–James E. Johnson
Standing Next to History—–Joseph Petro (secret service in Reagan White House)
Hazardous Duty—–John Singlaub
It Doesn’t Take a Hero—–Norman Schwarzkopf
On Wings of Eagles—–Ken Follett
The Shadow of His Wings—–Gereon Goldmann
Grey Seas Under—–Farley Mowatt
The Great Escape—–Paul Brickhill
My Family and Other Animals—–Gerald Durrell Secrets and Spies: Behind-the-Scenes Stories of WWII—–Reader’s Digest
True Stories of Great Escapes—–Reader’s Digest
Animals You Will Never Forget—–Reader’s Digest
Animals Can Be Almost Human—–Reader’s Digest
Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea—–Gary Kinder (accompanying book: America’s Lost Treasure by Tommy Thompson, with lavish photographs)


The first 3 titles are fiction with light romance. Other works by M. Stewart and D. du Maurier, however, aren’t worth reading.

Nine Coaches Waiting—–Mary Stewart
Rebecca—–Daphne du Maurier
Seventeenth Summer; Sixteen (short story), etc.—–Maureen Daly
The Hiding Place—–Corrie ten Boom
One of the Lucky Ones—–Lucy Ching
Paris Underground—–Etta Shiber
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers—–Maria von Trapp
Maria—–Maria von Trapp (her youth)
For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy—–Kimberly Brubaker
Katia—–E. M. Almedingen (a Russian girlhood)

Souls at Stake

Our kids are bombarded by bad books, TV, and video games — so how do we get them to read good books? First, we must convince ourselves that it’s worth the effort to try.

The most serious battle going on in this country is over the souls of our children. It is impossible to exaggerate the power of the image to form or deform the way they think. It is crucial to arm them with heroes that make virtue attractive. This will entail exercising your God-given authority, but that’s what it’s for. For starters, get the TVs and computers out of their bedrooms, and drastically curtail their use. Cut the plugs if you have to. Then, stock the house with good books.

When they’re bored, they will read.

Next, insist they read only books from a list or publisher you trust. It’s not easy, but many families do this. A guideline: assume that any book published after l960 is guilty until proven innocent.

If your children don’t have the habit of reading, require them to read at least a book a week. The reading level doesn’t matter so long as they enjoy the book. Leaving an enticing book out on a table will lure some children into reading it.

Reading aloud to them is as good as their reading on their own and has the added benefit of strengthening the bond between you and your child. Sometimes all it takes to convince them a book is good, is to read aloud the first two chapters. Some will grab the book from you to finish it on their own. Others you will have to tantalize by leaving off at the exciting part, so that in order to see how it ends, they will have to read the book themselves.

Suggested read aloud times: over dinner, in the car (if you’re the driver, they read to you), while they’re doing a chore, and when they’re sick. And don’t be afraid to try recorded books.

Is this daunting? Yes, it is, but it’s the soul of true parenting, and it’s very rewarding.

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