Practice makes for perfect summer reading

Books - August 2005


Judy Belanger


Often times I would ask students in my classes what it takes to be a good athlete or musician. They would reply: “Practice.”

I would then explain that reading is no different. To be a good reader, one must read. With only a few weeks left of vacation, here are a few recommendations of newer books for children in grades two through five to practice their reading for the rest of the summer. Other series for this age group include: Polk Street School, Cam Jansen, Encyclopedia Brown and Magic Tree House.

STINK: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KID, by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press, $12.99; ages 7-9.

Stink (James) is the second-grade brother of Judy Moody. Every morning he gets measured at 3 feet 8 inches tall, the shortest second-grader in his class. Then one night he gets measured before he goes to bed and is ¼-inch shorter. Everyone has suggestions on what Stink can do to grow. Judy tells him to eat more seafood, especially shrimp. The next morning Judy gives Stink some gel to put in his hair so it will stand up and make him look taller. Stink does look taller with the gel in his hair, but it makes his hair turn orange. Stink needs to write a report for President’s Day and he selects James Madison, who was only 5 feet 4 inches tall. Everyone tells him that growing takes time and he is sure some day it will happen to him. Visit for more about this author’s books and fun activity sheets.

MOSTLY GHOSTLY: WHO LET THE GHOSTS OUT? by R. L. Stine, Delacorte Press, $6.95; ages 8-10.

Walking down the street one night, Nicky, 11, and Tara, 9, discover they are ghosts. They don’t remember anything that would have caused this to happen, although their parents had been doing research on ghosts.

When they get to their house to look for their parents, they find it is occupied by another family. When the ghosts go into what had been Nicky’s room, they meet a boy named Max, who is about the same age. Max first feels their presence in the room and then is able to see the ghosts.

Nicky and Tara follow Max all over and try to help him, which causes many problems. The ghosts ask Max to help them by trying to find out what happened to their parents and caused them to become ghosts. Subsequent books continue the search for the solution to this adventure.

R. L. Stine books, which also include the Goosebumps series, are not usually on my list of favorite books to read. But then, when I was reading the Nancy Drew mysteries, many librarians didn’t highly recommend them, either. Having said that, I have found over the years that many reluctant readers will pick a Goosebumps or Mostly Ghostly book to read when they never selected anything else willingly.

LEGEND OF SPUD MURPHY, by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Glenn McCoy, Hyperion Books, $12.95; ages 7-11.

There are five boys in the Woodman family, which makes for a lot of activity around the house. Dad decides they need to find something educational for Will and Marty, ages 9 and 10, to do this summer, such as go to the library in the afternoons. Will and Marty are not happy with this decision.

The adults all like Mrs. Murphy, the lovely old lady librarian, but the kids all know differently. If they get caught moving off the carpet or making noise she will pull out from under the counter her battery-powered spud machine.

At first, the boys find ways to cause trouble, such as switching books on the shelves. They get caught and have to put the books back in the correct order. Eventually, a strange thing happens: the boys discover they really enjoy reading. Colfer is also the author of the popular Artemis Fowl series for readers ages 12 and up.

LUCY ROSE: HERE’S THE THING ABOUT ME and LUCY ROSE: BIG ON PLANS, by Katy Kelly, illustrated by Adam Rex, Delacorte Press, $12.95 and 14.95; ages 7-11.

Lucy Rose is the new kid in class. She has just started third grade in Washington, D. C. She and her mom have just moved from Ann Arbor, Mich., where her father still lives. So Lucy Rose has a lot of adjustments to make this year.

Both books are written in diary form—one is about her first year at school and the second is about her summer vacation. Writing has been an emphasis in schools the past few years with students keeping a journal and writing about events that have taken place throughout the year. Maybe Lucy Rose will inspire a few more writers.

Some other fun girls to read about are Junie B. Jones, Amber Brown, Judy Moody and Ramona.

MAGIC BY THE BOOK, by Nina Bernstein, pictures by Boris Kulikov, Farrar Straus Giroux, $17; ages 10-12.

Anne, 11, Emily, 9, and Will, almost 7, have just returned from the library with a basket full of books for their summer reading. Will quickly runs off to play baseball while Anne and Emily sort out their choices. At the bottom of the basket the girls find a very plain book with fading gilt lettering on the spine. Neither remembers checking out the book.

After the girls open the book, they find themselves in a forest. A man on a horse approaches and asks them for a shortcut to Nottingham. Anne quickly realizes they are in Sherwood Forest, home to Robin Hood. Their adventure includes a stay in prison and a rescue by Robin Hood. Will picks up the book one day and his adventure includes very large insects he read about in one of his favorite books.

This book would make a good family read-aloud so parents can help children understand some background information if they are not familiar with some of the included plots. I like the idea that reading is an adventure that can take readers to many different places when they use their imaginations.

Enjoy the rest of your summer reading adventures. 

Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.


Copyright 2017 Wednesday Journal Inc. All rights reserved. Chicago web development by liQuidprint