Summertime books for kids to explore

Sophia Lemperes, 5, reads a book in the children’s section of the Lynden Library in February, 2016. Summer is a good time to encourage students to read.
Sophia Lemperes, 5, reads a book in the children’s section of the Lynden Library in February, 2016. Summer is a good time to encourage students to read. eabell@bhamherald.com

The advent of summer means different things to different people. For some, it’s recreational, getting out the gear to climb a mountain or water-ski a lake. For others it’s just being outside, working in the soil or not-working in a hammock. For others still it’s piling into the hybrid for a road trip to visit far-away family.

And for children’s librarians everywhere summer is our chance to celebrate the joys of reading with our main constituency. During the summer kids find themselves, all-of-a-sudden, with hours of uninterrupted free time. We get to fill some of that time with engaging and rewarding books and stories.

There are stacks of research that demonstrate the powerful impact of consistent summer reading on the summer slide, that erosion of skill that can happen while kids are out of school. Kids who read across the summer retain reading-level proficiency over their peers who do not and begin the subsequent school year better prepared to proceed. And while we’re happy to know that a summer full of reading supports academic achievement, as librarians our summer reading goals are selfishly separate from an interest in school-based learning. We’re here to extoll the simple pleasures of getting lost in a book. A summer fueled by curiosity is a summer to savor, and whatever the summer holds, books can add layers of richness and wonder.

For summer 2016 the Whatcom County Library System and the Bellingham Public Library are partnering on On Your Mark, Get Set… READ!, a summer reading program built around games and sports, reinforcing the understanding that our favorite activities are twice as fun when we pursue them and read about them in equal measure.

With that in mind, here are some wonderful books for kids that concern themselves with all manner of recreational pursuits, from biographies of some of our favorite sports heroes to gripping tales of ocean adventure, with some poetry and humor thrown in for fun. Come into any Whatcom County or Bellingham library this summer to sign up, check out, and start your own summer of having fun and reading all about it!

“Booked” by Kwame Alexander

Following up on “The Crossover,” his Newbery-winning basketball novel-in-verse, Alexander gives us Nick, a soccer-star protagonist with a dictionary-writing father and raping school librarian, who loves words almost as much as he loves his game. Grades 5-8.

“Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask: A Bilingual Cuento” by Xavier Garza

Thrilled to be attending his first lucha libre, Carlitos chooses a mask just like the one his favorite Mexican wrestler wears, and is surprised to discover the true identity of The Man in the Silver Mask. Grades K-4.

“Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still” by Karlin Gray, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Those of us alive at the time will never forget Nadia Comaneci’s first perfect 10, and this bright, compelling picture-book biography gives us the background, telling the story of the infamous gymnast’s humble beginnings and spirited, resilient determination. Grades K-4.

“The Great Wide Sea” by M.H. Herlong

Three boys and their father take to the sea in a small sailboat, planning to live on the water for a year, but when a huge storm sweeps their father overboard in the middle of the ocean, it’s up to the boys to stay alive. Grades 4-7.

“The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher” by Dana Alison Levy

The Fletcher Family, two dads, four adopted sons, and a menagerie of animals, real and imaginary, find happiness and connection amidst the chaos of a busy life filled with sports, theater, school and love. Grades 3-6.

“Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)” by Sue Macy

Macy, a consummate journalist, traces the impact of the bicycle on women’s emancipation, examining the freedom it afforded, the consternation it provoked, and the luminaries it transported, including Annie Oakley and Marie Curie. Grades 5-8.

“Take Me Out to the Yakyu” by Aaron Meshon

This charming picture book looks at baseball in America and Japan, comparing all the elements of the game, from stadium food to crowd participation, in an enthusiastic celebration of our favorite pastime. Grades PreK-2.

“The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon” by Meghan McCarthy

McCarthy tells the remarkable, over-the-top story of the marathon at the first Olympic Games hosted in the U.S., rife with cheating, dust-clouds, chasing-dogs, runners taking strychnine, and all kinds of outlandish, entertaining escapades. Grades K-3.

“The Quickest Kid in Clarksville” by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Alta is beyond excited when she learns that her hero, Olympic champion Wilma Rudolph, will be visiting her town of Clarksville, Tennessee, and sets out to demonstrate her admiration by proving she’s the fastest girl in town. Grades K-2.

“Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali” by Charles R. Smith, illustrated by Bryan Collier

In 12 chapters Smith tells the story of one of the greatest athletes who ever lived, each “round” touching on a different event or experience, from the racial injustice the boxer faced, to his success in the ring, and life after the sport. Grades 3-7.

“Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold” by John Spray

Young Arthur Biyarslanov fled Chechnya as a Muslim refugee and endured hostility and bullying as he worked towards a career as a professional soccer player. A broken leg shifted his commitment to boxing, where he is now positioned to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Grades 6-10.

Thom Barthelmess is youth services manager for Whatcom County Library System.