Early Childhood Summer Reading List and Activities

Dive into summer with classic children’s picture books sure to entertain and inspire!

By Andrea Ferrero

summer reading for young children

Summer months are a wonderful time to grab a tote bag full of good books and set off for sunny adventures. Young readers will love local library summer reading incentive programs and story hours. While the library is sure to have plenty of title suggestions, here are some of my students' favorites to get you started.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw

Young readers delve into an exploration of shapes and prediction as they drift through this classic story. The book uses repetitive text patterns. Each white shape is silhouetted against a blue backdrop, making it a great tool for building emerging readers’ confidence.


Spilt Milk Activity Ideas:

  • Mini-Cloud Book: Each child can create a page for a cloud book. Begin with blue construction paper and a small amount of white paint. After dribbling white paint across the construction paper, the page can be folded in half and pushed gently together. The resulting shape will need its own story lines. My class always enjoyed using the template from the story:

Sometimes it looked like _____________.  

But it wasn’t a _______________. 

  • Oobleck as Spilt Milk: Not quite a liquid and not quite a solid, oobleck is a fantastic medium for shape exploration and design. Following along with a re-reading of the story, each shape can be created by manipulating oobleck on a hard surface such as a desk or tabletop.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle

A favorite among preschoolers and kindergarteners, the singsong text and bright illustrations develop reading readiness along with color recognition.

Brown Bear Activity Ideas: 

  • Puppets: Black and white printables of each animal can be colored or decorated with textural elements (felt, feathers, sequins etc.) to depict the proper color from the story. They can then be cut out and affixed to a tongue depressor or craft stick.
  • Story Sequencing: Using puppets or printed story cards, partners can retell the story to one another.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

A small mouse sets out on an extraordinary adventure to save his newly acquired strawberry from a big, hungry bear. The mysterious narrator, rich illustrations, and friendly text make this story one that many readers will open again and again.

Big Hungry Bear Activity Ideas:

  • Strawberry Disguises: Start with a large brown paper bag, color the bag red and add some green on the top. Next, using props or art supplies, allow pupils to disguise their strawberry.
  • Strawberry Tasting: Explore the senses by walking the group through a strawberry tasting. Each child will need their own berry or two. They can observe how it looks, feels, smells, and finally, tastes.

More Summer Reading Suggestions:

Preschool Summer Reading List

Input from a variety of independent bookstores and a team of dedicated parents brought this short and sweet preschool book list to life. The list includes summaries for each title, giving a clear depiction of the theme and content of each tale. A fun extra, this list includes links for purchasing each title, as well as pricing information. In order to meet every readers needs, the book list includes links to book lists for K-5th summer reading suggestions too!  

Kindergarten through Fifth Grade Reading List

Need a printable book list to share with families? Look no further. Assembled by teachers, this packet of story suggestions includes a printable handout for each grade, K-5. Every page has a brief statement on the importance of reading and tips for success. Titles on the lists are arranged by topic and content themes.  

Preschool to Kindergarten - Home Literacy Connections  

This comprehensive collection of title recommendations and story-related activities is the well-crafted work of the Michigan Department of Education. It is a remarkable tool for supporting the transition from preschool to kindergarten. The packet includes rich learning activities for phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary acquisition.