Summer Challenge 2017


I am a planner by nature.

I always have a to do list, and I faithfully check things off as they are completed. Summer is a prime time for me to make a few lists.

There’s the list of projects I want to finish while school is not in session. Then I have the list of fun things I want to be sure we do before school starts up again. And finally, I have my summer reading plan.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my post about summer reading recommendations, a list or a challenge isn’t a great idea for every reader. For some folks, that would make the reading seem like a chore. But I LOVE a challenge. I was the kid who loved the March of Dimes reading challenge at school or who responded well to a sticker chart. Anything where I could track my achievements.

So I set a reading challenge every year in January, and I have another one that covers my summer reading. Here are some of the things on my 2017 Summer Reading Plan:


If you are on Twitter, you can find a number of teachers tweeting about their reading year-round, but especially in the summer, with this hashtag. The idea is to try to read one book for every day of your “summer” (and you get to choose what qualifies as “summer). This year, my summer will run from June 5 to July 30, which is 56 days. This is pretty standard for me. It gives me a week or so after the school year ends to do whatever I want, which usually includes some reading, but is less structured for the transition from school year to summer. This also gives me whatever non-school days I can get at the start of August to shift my thinking from summer back to school year. So, my #bookaday goal this summer is to read at least 56 books.  The library is a great resource for #bookaday, although my TBR shelves at home easily hold 56 books.


I tend to read in pretty rigid categories. I like new books – the newer the better – and I stick with mysteries and fantasy/science fiction with some realistic fiction thrown in. This summer, I am challenging myself to read some classics. In most cases, these are re-reads – books I read ages ago but can’t remember. These are the classics on my list:

  • Sense and Sensibility – I’ve never read Austen, and I don’t like Pride and Prejudice, but I love the Sense and Sensibility movie
  • Jane Eyre
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Wrinkle in Time – I’m going to read the graphic novel
  • Much Ado About Nothing – One of my favorite Shakespeare plays

Family Challenge

Last summer my son and I chose 5 books for the other person to read. He did a fabulous job and read all 5 I recommended. I, however, did not. I ended up only reading 3 in the summer, and picked up a fourth one this spring when he insisted. This summer my husband is getting into the act. We are each choosing 2 books for the other two people in the house. I will be reading:

  • Rebels by David Liss (Book 2 in the Randoms series) – chosen by my teen
  • Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos – chosen by my teen
  • The Innocent by David Baldacci – chosen by my husband
  • The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia – chosen by my husband
  • I have assigned my son The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (a book from my TBR shelves)
  • I have assigned my husband Alien Tango by Gini Koch and The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • My husband has assigned my son The Haunting of Barry Allen by Clay and Susan Griffith and The Recruit (CHERUB) by Robert Muchamore
  • My son has assigned my husband Randoms by David Liss and Quantum Prophecy: The Awakening by Michael Carroll


I love learning new things, but I am not a good finisher when it comes to nonfiction. So I am challenging myself to read the following:

  • A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (My husband recommended this one)
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson (I have started this but haven’t finished)
  • Uninvited by Lysa TerKerst (I’ve read this but I want to read through it again)
  • Daring Greatly by Brené Browning


When I was teaching, my students were always so excited about summer break because they could re-read some of their favorite books without penalty. I love to re-read my favorites in January and also over the summer. Some of my re-reads this summer will be:

  • The Fixer and The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (I LOVED The Long Game but I’ve only read it once.)
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (a nursery rhyme based mystery)
  • StarFleet Academy – The Edge by Rudy Josephs (this is the first in a four book series with the new JJ Abrams cast in mind)
  • Talons of Power by Tui T. Sutherland (this is the most recent Wings of Fire book. I want to read it again before the last book comes out in July)
  • The Amber Photograph by Penelope Stokes (This is one of my comfort books that I read over and over)

New books

Of course, there are all sorts of new releases coming out this summer that I hope to read! If you check out my Book News posts on Mondays this summer, you’ll see some of the ones I am most looking forward to.


What are you hoping to read this summer? Do you like a challenge or do you prefer to read whatever comes along?

Unicorn of Many Hats

SUMMER READING Recommendations

“Summer Slide” is the drop in reading and math skills that students experience during summer vacation. I pinned a few things on Pinterest about the summer slide. There are hundreds of posts out there on the topic – ideas of things to do and graphics about why the summer slide is a big deal for students. There’s an entire industry built on this concept, and they churn out summer workbooks for students at every grade level. The hope is that students will spend a little time every day to keep their skills up so they start the new school year on track rather than spending the first few weeks trying to recapture what they learned last year. At least in my experience, this felt like just more school to my son, and he despised the workbook no matter what incentive he earned to finish.

As a reading advocate, I am most interested in the reading side of the slide. Kids with no access to books at home have the hardest time when school starts back up in the fall. They may be sun-kissed from hours outside – or pale from hours indoors playing video games – but their reading skills have atrophied over the summer. Donalyn Miller, reading expert, says reading just 4 or 5 books over the summer vacation can help students keep their skills up for the new school year.

How do you get your kids to read over the summer?

Try to keep it FUN. When I was teaching, my students loved summer because they could read books that were under their reading level (sometimes frowned upon during the school year) or books that they had already read. Let your student read what he/she wants in the summer! Enjoy the freedom.

Consider a challenge or make it a game. If you have a kid who responds well to a challenge, set one up. There are many options available online. Last summer, my son and I chose the challenge books for each other. It was fun to read things that I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise that he loved. And it was a great way to get him to read things I thought he would like but he sneered at during the school year. If a challenge or game will make reading feel like a chore for your student DON’T do it. You know your child best and know how he/she will respond.

Take advantage of your local library. Some kids don’t have books at home – and others have read everything they have. The library is a great place to discover new reading materials! If your student has a tablet, look into ebooks from your library. Some schools have started making their library collections available in the summer because they know how important this is for students. See if that is an option from your school district.

To help you out, I have created a PDF of book recommendations for kids at different age levels. The age levels are recommendations. I might change those recommendations for a particular reader that I know well, but these are a starting point. Look at the suggestions with your readers. See which books they have already read. Talk about what they loved about their favorite books. Look at the general suggestions at the bottom of the PDF for other ideas.  Here is the PDF: The Neverending TBR Summer Reading List 2017


I hope you and your kids have a terrific summer break. Let me know if you find some great books so I can add them to MY summer reading list!