Strong Families, Strong Daughters Blog

The Joys of Summer Reading

Catherine Courtney 

Reading offers a lifetime of enrichment. By encouraging your children to spend some of their free summer time reading, you can help them improve their reading skills as well as develop the life-long habit of reading.

Not everyone has to be a bookworm, but an appreciation for the written word and literature is beneficial in a variety of ways. Reading sparks wonder, ignites the imagination, and exposes us to wisdom and insights into human nature that we might not have received otherwise. 

C.S. Lewis had some things to say on the importance of expanding our horizons through reading. He wrote, “Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk to an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others.” 

There are a few things to keep in mind as you encourage your child on the journey of summer reading: 

  • Summer reading books should not have their pleasures sapped by elaborate study guides or note taking. However, for high school students especially, it can be good to annotate the text while reading. Writing in the pages of a book as you read helps you to “be in conversation” with the work, to keep your mind alert while reading and take note of particular questions or reactions you might have to the story. 
  • Be adventurous and explore different authors and books—don’t choose books you have already read! 

From historical fiction to fantasy, the list of wonderful books that can be enjoyed over the summer is endless. Here are some good places to start for middle and high school students. 

Middle School  
  • The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald 
  • Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome 
  • The Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Winged Watchman, Hilda van Stockum
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood, Roger Lancelyn Greene
  • The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories, O. Henry
  • Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
  • The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom 
  • The Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein 
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith 
  • Otto of the Silver Hand, Howard Pyle
  • Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes 

High School  
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  • North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell 
  • In This House of Breed, Rumer Godden
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  • The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  • The Betrothed, Alessandro Manzoni
  • Til We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis 
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
  • The Power and the Glory, Grahame Greene
  • A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr. 
  • Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy 

Catherine Courtney is proud to be a member of the Oakcrest community as Director of Academic Advising,  Head Librarian, and mother of an Oakie, Class of 2024. Catherine received a B.A. in Classics from the University of Virginia and a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Maryland. She brings experience working in corporate, public, and school libraries as well as undergraduate academic advising at George Mason University. 

Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Hoai