Books to get the whole family reading this summer

Summer is a great time to read together as a family, says Mandy Brouse of Words Worth Books in Waterloo.

Summer is a great time to read together as a family

Reading can be more fun when you do it as a family, Mandy Brouse writes. (CBC)
  Every summer, I hear the same debate: Do kids have too much time off between school years? 

How you spend that time makes all the difference. Summer vacation – and especially time spent away from home – allows children the unstructured time required to really dig into a great book.

One of the biggest questions as families go away to the beach or the cottage is what books to bring. At home, screens and other familiar distractions vie for attention, while a week away at the cottage is perfect for immersing kids in a gripping series of books.

In fact, summer vacation is the best time to practice reading as a family. Have younger kids practice their reading skill on infant siblings or start a mother-daughter book club. Read aloud every night for a week as a family and see how a love for reading grows in children.

Below is a list of titles to pack in your away-bag along with ideas of how each title can be enjoyed as a family.

Ages 0-3

Is there anything more sweet than seeing babies at the beach? Laurie Elmquist has penned a gentle story, Beach Baby, about the simple joys of the beach as seen through a baby's eyes.

Her poetry has a lilting quality that is perfect for a baby beach nap and parents will love the easy way each line sounds as they read it aloud.

Paired with Elly MacKay's beach-haze watercolours, Beach Baby is the perfect little book to throw in a diaper bag.

Family reads suggestion: Help younger children to practice reading this book to infant siblings. Or have each family member read a page and pass it along.

Ages 6-9

Parents and children alike feel that separation anxiety when a child goes off to summer camp, but Andrea Zuill's Wolf Camp reminds readers what fun it can be.

Homer, a fairly spoiled dog, begs his family to let him to go Wolf Camp to explore his wolf heritage. He makes friends, learns new skills and finds out that when you're a wolf, you have to eat live animals. And he's just not OK with that!

At the end of his stay, Homer takes back some great life lessons, memories and friendships. Wolf Camp is a great book to allay any anxiety about being away from home for too long and to remind readers that camp can be some of the best fun to be had in the summer.

Family reads suggestion: Read Wolf Camp together before children depart for camp. Parents can write a special note inside the book and pack it in their overnight back to take with them.

Ages 10-14

A Handful of Time by Kit Pearson is an absolute classic.

Patricia is sent by her family's lake cottage to spend the summer with distant cousins she hardly knows when she's rather stay home with her mother. 

They have a strained relationship and it is only when Patricia finds an old watch with the ability to turn back time that she truly starts to understand their relationship. A Handful of Time is about that time in a child's life when they realize their parents were children once, too. 

It's a perfect cottage read and one of the best novels to handle time travel that I've read.

Family reads suggestion: This title is perfect for a mother-daughter book club, touching on all aspects of this relationship. There will be a lot to talk about.

Ages 16+

Colin has been dumped 19 times – all by girls named Katherine, in John Green's An Abundance of Katherines. Deemed a prodigy, Colin has thought about this fact way too much.

Mathematically, in fact, he is devising a formula to determine when someone will dump him. Or that's his plan.

But his best friend, Hasan, thinks he is moping in his bedroom, so he forces Colin on a long-distance journey with no goal in mind except to get him over Katherine. What ensues is a great buddy road trip story with a lot of anagrams, some math and a lot of heart!

Family reads suggestion: On a road trip? Take this audio book (yes, they count, too!) and listen as a family with older teens.


Mandy Brouse, the co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo, is an occasional contributer to CBC KW's The Morning Edition and is writing a series of columns this summer with book suggestions to keep children and teens reading.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?