In kindergarten, kids typically take their first steps towards reading on their own. This summer is the perfect time to lay the groundwork for that process, by showing kids that reading is a fun adventure, and that any time is a good time to crack open a book. We've combed our shelves for favorite titles that will turn your child on to reading, and show her how wonderful books can be.

Our 2012 Kindergarten Summer Reading Picks

Chloe, Instead, by Micah Player. While this book may seem a primer for brand-new big sisters and brothers. It is, but this devastatingly sweet depiction of sisterly devotion also brings comfort to parents who have recently brought home a new addition. The bright illustrations will fascinate kindergarteners and the conversational text, peppered with prime opportunities for dramatic play, make for a great read-aloud. (Chronicle, $10.87)

Alphabet Everywhere, by Elliot Kaufman. This beautiful book turns the alphabet into a visual treasure hunt, showing kids that letters can pop up in the most unexpected places: the curves of a door handle, the bricks on a wall, the metal of a lantern. Don’t be surprised if your kid starts searching for A to Z wherever she goes, and perfecting her letter recognition along the way!(Abbeville Kids, $14.95)

Otto the Boy Who Loved Cars, by Kara Lareau. Otto is in love with autos. His day is a whirlwind of car-inspired activities and thoughts. He notices little else, including the world around him. Otto wakes one day to find that he’s been transformed into his favorite thing. At first he’s delighted, but several days of zooming on the fringes of the playground leave Otto feeling empty. After hitting rock bottom, he awakes with a new perspective on his single-minded obsession. Young readers will enjoy the car-centric theme and bold pictures. Parents may find it useful in engaging discussion around the importance of cultivating a range of interests and friends. (Roaring Brook Press, $12.47)

At the Boardwalk, by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman. Spend a lazy summer day enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the seashore...all from your favorite reading spot. This book’s lyrical, rhythmic text evokes the energy and joyful chaos of the boardwalk. The rich illustrations depict the diversity of activities, offerings, and people one might encounter on a typical afternoon stroll. The book’s clever rhyming scheme makes it a natural for reading aloud again and again, perhaps even on a car ride to the beach? (Tiger Tales, $11.35)


Our 2011 Kindergarten Summer Reading Picks

My Daddy is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste, with illustrations by Sophie Fatus. Some kids have veterinarians for parents. Some have architects. When his teacher asks the young narrator of this color-filled picture book what his parents do for a living, he says his daddy is a pretzel—able to contort into an airplane, a dog, or a bridge at will. Framed within a cute parents on-the-job story, with kid-friendly tips on what makes each pose special and how to do it, this blend of how-to and fictional whimsy is an addictive introduction to yoga for kids. (Barefoot Books, $11.55)

  Press Here by Herve Tullet. Reclaim your iPhone! This book is so interactive, kids will unhand technology for something totally unplugged. It all starts with a yellow dot... “Press here and turn the page” and discover two dots, and another prompt. Shake the book just so and the dots land on the bottom. Tap them quickly and they change color or multiply. As they blow, turn, shimmy, and shift, each turned page holds a surprise. As engaging as your latest downloaded kids app... without the batteries. (Chronicle Books, $8.82) 

 Hopper and Wilson by Maria Van Lieshout. Hopper and Wilson may just be everyday stuffed animals, but they’ve got big dreams. Tired of just looking at the big blue sea, they decide to sail it... in the hope of discovering either a stairway to the moon, or an endless supply of lemonade. Armed with a red balloon and a boat made of folded newspaper, they set out to find something magical, but when the trip gets rougher than they anticipated, friendship saves the day. With its whimsical watercolors and text just right for little kids tired of being left behind, the story of Hopper and Wilson celebrates imagination, and the people kids hold most dear. (Philomel Books, $16.99) 

  The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale, written by Brenda Williams, illustrated by Sophie Fatus. In this modern recounting of the classic tale “The Princess and the Pea”, kids count over and over again, with numbers boldly displayed against sweet paint and paper collage images. Items appear and disappear—weaving in subtle excuses for mental math. But while it's true that there's plenty of counting practice, mathemagical discovery, and even a little early subtraction thrown into the mix, at its heart, this book is a fun fairytale read. With lots to see on every colorful page and an audio CD for on-the-go story and learning time, this is a silly romp kids can count on! (Barefoot Books, $11.24) 

  Pretend by Jennifer Plecas. This delicious concoction puts imagination front-and-center. Itching for something fun to do, Jimmy transforms the living room into a high sea adventure. The couch becomes a boat, the magazine his Dad had been buried in gets thrown aboard to scare sharks away, and a fishing line magically appears just as hunger rears its ugly head. Expressively illustrated, with quick peeks at the real world behind the pretend one (the stairs that become the mountain Jimmy must climb to get to safety), the book is filled with winks and nods at imaginative play that kids will delight in discovering. But it's when the wild tale-telling is over that the best part arrives: a super sweet way to say goodnight to your own adventurer. (Philomel Books, $15.99)

Our 2010 Kindergarten Summer Reading Picks

Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord. Built for a need-for-speed, rough-and-tumble kind of kindergartener, this fast-paced car-racing tale will leave kids smiling from start to finish line. Filled with colorful illustrations and snappy writing, this junkyard Cinderella story about a hamster and his search for the perfect hot rod, will delight any Cars-obsessed, animal-loving kid. A smokin', souped-up story about burning rubber and the triumph of a little hamster underdog. (Scholastic, $11.55)

 Magnus Maximus by Kathleen T. Pelley. Magnus Maximus measures extraordinary things, from the itchiness of an itch to the number of fleas on an escaped circus lion (consequently detaining the lion and making Magnus a hero!) So intense is his focus on counting the little things that he doesn't fully experience the beautiful things that pass his way...until a new friend helps to show him how. This great lesson about taking stock of the things that really matter, is wrapped up in a beautifully-imagined story. Ink and watercolor illustrations portray Victorian England convincingly, complete with details both funny and sweet. An instant classic! (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $11.55) 

The Jungle Grapevine by Alex Beard. It's another beautiful day in the jungle, but when Bird misinterprets Turtle's comment on the way to the watering hole, and Elephant passes the information on to Snake, rumors begin spreading like wildfire! Is there really a drought and a flood? How will the animals stem the tide of misinformation? This clever and creative storybook is an engaging page-turner for young readers, with colorful illustrations that bound off the page. A fun reading safari! (Abrams, $11.53) 

 The Story Tree by Hugh Lupton. These seven tales span the globe in terms of origin, but they all have something important in common: vibrant characters and plenty of repetition. This makes them a perfect choice for kinders! The Little Red Hen, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and several of the other stories will likely be familiar to parents, but these well-known folktales are retold for a reason—their rhythms and repetitions encourage kids to shout out the refrains, and in the process, learn how stories are structured and what makes them tick. A beautifully illustrated collection with tales from all over the world. (Barefoot Books, $15.59)

Farm by Elisha Cooper. This beautifully told and illustrated book is at once lively and peaceful, chronicaling the events and quiet moments of life on a farm with graceful language and images that soothe, but never bore. Tractors, crops, animals and farmers all play a part in this wonderful book, which captures the rhythms of rural life and gives a feel for the sights and seasons of a working farm.(Scholastic, $17.99)

Our 2009 Kindergarten Summer Reading Picks

The Travel Game by John Grandits, illustrated by R.W. Alley. Tad is not a big fan of afternoon naps. His Aunt Hattie coerces him to go to his room with a game she's created: Each afternoon they spin the globe, Tad plops his finger down with his eyes closed, and they "go" wherever they land. Using an illustrated encyclopedia for story fodder, Hattie whisks them to the boat city of Hong Kong, the wilds of the Amazon, or the streets of India-- all without leaving the comfort of their home. Written by the former art director of Cricket magazine and illustrated by the artist behind the Paddington Bear series, not only is the story a keeper, but it just may inspire kids to pick up a globe and try their own version. (Clarion, 2009, $16.00)

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Take an optical illusion, add two kids who love to argue (sound familiar?), sprinkle in delightful illustrations, and layer a smart, well-written text across it all. You've got Duck! Rabbit!, a simple but surprisingly elegant picture book that kids will want to read again and again. The plot centers around a simple sketch-- is it a duck or a rabbit? Yes, on both counts, depending how you look at it. Kids will love taking sides and they might even change their minds by story's end. (Chronicle Books, 2009, $16.99)

A Book by Mordicai Gerstein. There once was a family that lived between the covers of a book. When the book was closed, it was night inside. When the book was open, it was day. One morning the girl in the book asked something that had been bothering her: if they were all characters, then what was their story? Dissatisfied with the answer, she sets out to discover whather story is about. Drawn with shadows and perspective that make the reader feel as if he's peering in on a 3-D world, this picture book moves from fairy tales to pirate tales, in search of a plot that feels right to the girl. Young readers along for the ride become characters in the book, too. A very special way to engage kids in the reading process. (Roaring Brook Press, 2009, $16.95)

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. One day, while out exploring his drab, gray city, Liam finds an abandoned railway track with some wildflowers still clinging to life. He decides to help these plants survive, by taking on the role of gardener. Soon the curious garden begins to thrive and once it starts to spread, other city-dwellers become inspired to pitch in and help, so that over time, the once dreary city becomes a green paradise. This magical book is a celebration of nature, introducing kids to the idea of environmental stewardship and community service. A great read-aloud during the blossoming summer months when your child's curiosity about the natural world is at its peak. (Little Brown, 2009, $16.99)

May 16, 2011