Summer Reading Lists for Catholic Kids (K-6)

I remember growing up with bookshelves crammed full of Caldecott and Newbery winners. My mothers is a librarian and media specialist, and when I was quite young she was a children’s librarian (one of the really cool ones who does the story hours), so it’s no exaggeration to say my young life was steeped in story. Really good stories. I’m not sure there are enough words in all those books to thank my mother for that experience.

Those words, those characters, those tales have in no small part shaped who I’ve become. Isn’t that the way with stories? At their core, they are a way of making sense of the world–not only for the author, but for the reader, as well. They help us puzzle out what we would do in such-and-such a situation; the kind of friend, lover, daughter, father, hero or heroine we wish to be.

Because stories are so powerful, it is very important to fill our children’s minds and hearts with those stories that will lift them up, that will both challenge their moral conscience, and inspire them to become the best versions of themselves. This doesn’t mean restricting their reading to the Pollyannas of the literary world (though truly, Pollyanna is a fantastic book). There’s room enough for high adventure and Byronic antiheroes in even the most morally scrupulous library. The world is made up of such things, and so should our stories be if we are ever to puzzle out this world of ours, and our place in it.

The key is choosing age-appropriate literature that is morally clear. Not black-and-white or white-washed, but clear. Below, you will find a list of such books for the grade-school levels. Not all the books are religious, and certainly not all are Catholic, but speaking as a Catholic mother and home educator, I believe they are the kind of stories that will elevate our children’s minds and hearts and steer them along the adventurous road to heaven.

PICTURE BOOKS

You don’t need to be an independent reader to be steeped in story. (What adult doesn’t love a good audiobook?) I could write ad nauseum about how important it is to read aloud to your child, but I figure you already know that. Rather, I want to assure you that these books will go straight to your child’s heart–and yours, too. Some of our family’s favorite summer reads.

  • At the Beach by Anne and Harlow Rockwell
  • Maui and the Sun by Gavin Bishop
  • The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Marla Frazee
  • Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
  • Shells! Shells! Shells! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
  • The Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop and Preston McDaniels
  • The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop
  • Jesus Loves Me by Tim Warnes
  • Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester L. Laminack and Chris Soentpiet
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Baby Bear’s Books by Jane Yolen and Melissa Sweet
  • The Gift of the Sacred Dog by Paul Goble
  • Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova and Nick Wroblewski
  • America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates and Wendell Minor
  • Lucy’s Summer by Donald Hall and Michael McCurdy
  • Over in the Meadow by John Langstaff and Feodor Rojanksovsky
  • The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin
  • The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci and Jerry Pinkney
  • Salmon Forest by David Suzuki, Sarah Ellis, and Sheena Lott

EARLY READERS

For those just starting out on the adventure of independent reading, here are some fun and fabulous summer selections.

  • Prairie School by Avi and Bill Farnsworth
  • Curious George Goes to the Beach by Margret and H.A. Rey
  • Curious George Goes Camping Margret and H.A. Rey
  • Biscuit’s Day at the Farm by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories
  • Biscuit in the Garden by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories
  • Biscuit Goes Camping by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories
  • Little Bear’s Friend by Maurice Sendak
  • Small Pig by Arnold Lobel
  • The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson
  • Catholic Children’s Treasure Box (series) ed. by Maryknoll Sisters
  • Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
  • Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter
  • The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter
  • The Tale of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter

1ST-2ND GRADE

These books are for solid readers in the early grades. If your first or second grade is still a budding reader, stick to the above books, or work through these together. Remember, soaking in story is the goal. In the summer especially, reading should (above all) be fun!

  • The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
  • A Donsy of Gnomes by Sieglinde de Francesca
  • The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
  • Along Came a Dog by Meindert DeJong
  • Molly Saves the Day by Valerie Tripp
  • Samantha Saves the Day by Valerie Tripp
  • Kirsten Saves the Day by Janet Shaw
  • Addy Saves the Day by Connie Porter
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
  • Rare Catholic Stories published by Little Way Press
  • Devotional Stories for Little Folks by Nancy Nicholson
  • Devotional Stories for Little Folks Too by Nancy Nicholson
  • Kat Finds a Friend: A Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Story by Joan Stromberg and Eileen McCook
  • Clare’s Costly Cookie by Julie Kelly and Mary MacArthur
  • Artie and the Princess by Marjorie Torrey

3RD-4TH GRADE

For more accomplished readers, these books will provide plenty of excitement to combat lazy-day summer boredom. If you have a precocious reader, she may enjoy these at an earlier age.

  • The King of Golden City by Mother Mary Loyola
  • Robin Hood ed. by G. C. Harvey
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yate and Nora S. Unwin
  • The Corn Grows Ripe by Dorothy Rhoads
  • More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  • The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  • The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burford
  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
  • Saints: Lives and Illuminations by Ruth Sanderson
  • Life with Lily by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher

5TH-6TH GRADE

In addition to containing more challenging vocabulary and sentence structure, you’re going to find more challenging and deeper themes, appropriate for readers bridging the years from child to “tween.” If you have a particularly sensitive-souled reader, consider having a “book club,” so you can puzzle out these stories together.

  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
  • The Green Ember by S. D. Smith and Zach Franzen
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques
  • Catherine, Called Birdy  by Karen Cushman
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White*
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • St. Thomas More of London by Elizabeth M. Ince

This list is by no means comprehensive, so please share your favorite summer reads for K-6 in the comments section. Meanwhile, I hope these books will see your young readers through the summer with excitement, encouragement, and much enjoyment!

*

* The latter books of The Once and Future Kingof which The Sword in the Stone is only the first part, deal with much more adult themes and should probably be held off until middle school, unless with parental guidance.

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