From tee-ball games to church camp to family vacation, the summer months can easily become just as busy as the rest of the year. Therefore, Dr. Cathy Stewart, an adjunct professor for the University of Mississippi School of Education and a former elementary teacher of 20 years, urges parents and children to make time for summer reading.

“Reading is a skill just like riding a bicycle, skiing or playing a sport,” Stewart said. “The more you read, the better reader you become.”

Reading, especially during the summer, can be great entertainment as well as a spiritual and emotional support system.

“Reading opens the doors to many new experiences and journeys,” Stewart explained. “[For example], we bring our own experiences to the books that we read. Through reading other people’s stories and experiences, we can gain insight into our own lives,” she added.

Stewart also encourages children and adults to read books on topics that interest them.

“We need to choose books that we want to read, not books from a list of books that someone else enjoys,” she said. “Children and adults need to feel ownership of their reading material.”

Books reviewed below are suggested summer reading by our panel of experts. The titles vary in age-appropriateness and topic, so it’s likely that a person will find one that suits his interest. If not, take a trip to the local library and begin flipping through the pages of what could become a passport to anywhere.

Title: Jesus is Coming Back!
Author: Debby Anderson
Age Range: Preschool through early elementary
Reviewed by: Kari Robertson, home-school mother

Jesus is Coming Back! is a great book for children to learn Bible truths about the return of Jesus. Author Debby Anderson definitely searched the Scriptures to see what God says about Jesus’ return, how to be ready for His return, and what we should be doing as we wait for that glorious day. In addition to Scripture references, it has great illustrations with smiling faces, excitement and bright colors.

As my children and I read this book, we become very excited about serving the Lord Jesus and sharing His love with all people as we wait with excitement for His second coming.  My boys and I love the first page that reads, “When I look up at the clouds, I remember Jesus’ promise to come back. I wonder … will it be today?”

Other suggestions from our panel:
Good Night, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Title: The Twenty-One Balloons
Author: William Pene du Bois
Age Range: Late elementary
Reviewed by: David Rainey, reference librarian at the State Library of Louisiana and homeschool father

Somewhere around fourth or fifth grade I got my hands on a copy of The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois.  What an adventure! In 1883, Professor William Waterman Sherman plans to journey from San Francisco across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon.  Circumstances lead him to the island of Krakatoa where he meets an amazing civilization on the edge of doom. To equip himself for this expedition, Professor Sherman has prepared a floating balloon home filled with clever balloon inventions that delighted me as a child.  I will never forget the strange inhabitants of Krakatoa or their fabulous secret.  

A broad range of young readers (ages 9 and up) will find this easy to read, light-hearted story worth their time.  It’s a perfect summer read to spark the imagination. This classic tale was first published by Viking in 1947 and won the Newbery Medal in 1948. It’s still available at bookstores and your local public library.

Other suggestions from our panel:
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater

Title: My Side of the Mountain
Author: Jean Craighead George
Age Range: Junior High
Reviewed by: Anita Chamblee, homeschool mother

In home schooling our six children over the past 18 years, we have come across many books. As we have grown older and wiser we have been able to separate books into two categories that those in the homeschool arena know as “twaddle” and “living books.”

Simply defined, “twaddle” books may be entertaining for the short time they are being read, but they do not lead the reader to a higher degree of thought or spur him to activity. Living books, on the other hand, can give insight into historical time periods, encourage us to study God’s creation or instill in us a desire to walk closer to God.

My children all love to read. Everyone usually has a book going, and we read together as well. Currently, my 13-and 9-year-old sons, 6-year-old daughter and I are reading the “living book” My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, published by E.P. Dutton in 1959.

In My Side of the Mountain, a young boy, Sam Gribley, decides to leave his New York City home and large family in search of his grandfather’s old farm claim in the Catskill Mountains. With the help of a small-town librarian, Sam is able to find the old farmstead, and by observing the wild animals, he learns how to make it his home.

Eventually Sam is reunited with his family and is able to teach his many siblings the joys of living self-sufficiently in the beautiful Catskill Mountains.

This book sparks the imagination for a summer of great outdoor activity. My children are all ready to run away and try their hands at living in the wild. While I don’t want them to actually run away, there are many activities gleaned from the book that they would enjoy. Plant identification, searching for animal tracks and making shelters, animal traps, moccasins and buckskin clothing are just a few of the projects that could keep them learning all summer.

So, read this book with your children, then go out to the nature areas around you and explore with your children the great outdoors that God has created.

Other suggestions from our panel:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss
Joni by Joni Eareckson Tada

Title: Pursuit of God
Author: A. W. Tozer
Age Range: High school/college
Reviewed by: Joseph Crampton, 18-year-old high school senior 

Although it is tempting to read lighter works in the summer, such as The Chronicles of Narnia or one of the Mitford series, I recommend a shorter but perhaps more helpful book by A.W. Tozer, Pursuit of God (Christian Publications). This book is one which thrusts before our eyes the God who is there. The greatness of our Lord, the maker and sustainer of all creation, is displayed before us in all His glorious splendor. What better things could we hope for this summer? What greater things to petition our Father for than a nearer and growing communion with Him?

Every page of this classic seems to be filled with years of contemplation. It is better, certainly, to fill our minds with the images of the enraptured heart of one who worships the true God than with the abstract words of a stuffy theologian. 

So, if you are looking for an easy book for this summer, of course you may still read it.  But I will ask you why, if you are reading that instead of a substantive work on Christian living, you are neglecting so great a salvation.

Other suggestions from our panel:
The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
Space Trilogy Series by C.S. Lewis
Life On the Edge by James Dobson

Title: Introduction to the Devout Life
Author: Francis de Sales
Age Range: College/young adult
Reviewed by: Michael DePrimo, senior litigation counsel for the AFA Center for Law and Policy 

For the past several months I have been musing over the book, Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis de Sales, the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, during the period 1602-1622. The book offers profound guidance on how to be a holy, faithful follower of Jesus Christ in a culture that is disinterested in, or even celebrates, unholiness. In 119 short essays, many of which are only a few pages long, de Sales offers sage advice on topics ranging from purifying the soul to the necessity of prayer to guarding virginity.

 The book is far from theoretical; it is a “how to” book that provides the reader with practical wisdom for daily life. It transcends the ages by demonstrating that the struggle against sin and depravity is never-ending because it is intrinsic to the human condition. De Sales teaches that sin can be overcome only through constant self-examination and the continuous practice of the presence of God. He offers step-by-step instructions designed to assist the reader to achieve intimacy with God.

Introduction to the Devout Life is appropriate for anyone interested in deepening his spiritual life.

Other suggestions:
When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy
Desiring God by John Piper
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenitsyn

All reviewed titles are available at the American Family Resource Center www.afa.net, with the exception of The Twenty-One Balloons, which is available at www.christianbook.com.

SIDEBAR: Reading tips for parents