Ah, summer. That golden time when the clock seems to slow, the morning brightens earlier, the night darkens later, and the day is filled with so much possibility we feel we might burst. It is like that for littles, and it is like that for us as adults. School gets a little lazier. The rules ease up a bit. There is fun to be had, and we are going to have it.
Learning about what makes summer Summer–which hemisphere it is visiting and what the sun and the earth are doing to cause it–is an eye-opener for most littles. All they know is that suddenly it is warm enough to play outside every day, even in the rain, and the swimming pools are open, and popsicles are sweeter on the tongue when you’re sweating buckets. A good lesson about summer might include what animals are lurking about that we don’t see in winter, what insects are taking our breath with their beauty or just flat annoying us, what the trees are doing to cause All That Green. And of course, we must have books to help us celebrate. Here’s a short list of books you can include to help your littles get the full effect of marvelous, magical summer.
Frog and Toad-The Complete Collection by Arnold Lobel
Thank you, Arnold Lobel. These stories and their illustrations are so lyrical and daydream-inducing. They make me want to be a toad. They probably fostered my love of amphibians. There are several stories here that encompass summer and will leave your littles hankering to get outside and explore. Summer and The Garden spring immediately to mind. If you have any of these books on hand, definitely add them to your lessons about summer. They will show littles a bit of what summer is about, and the stories always drive home the value of true friendship.
Georgia Music by Helen V. Griffith
This book. This one. The watercolor illustrations capture a southern summer so gorgeously your little will get lost in them (and so will you). The story, about a little girl who spends a summer in Georgia with her grandfather and learns the music of nature as well as the music he makes on his mouth organ, will melt your heart. When her grandfather is forced by old age to move up north with the girl and her mother, he misses the Georgia music terribly. So the little girl plays a mouth organ to recreate the sounds he misses and eases his heart. Beautiful. The bonus is the reminder to your child to listen to the crickets and the frogs and the birds and all the stunning music in her own backyard.
This brightly-colored book tells of an entire summer day and night through the eyes of a little girl who is looking to entertain herself. The gentle rhyme of the book adds to the lazy, summer-time feel. She goes on a picnic, takes a swim, sips lemonade, and catches a butterfly. She sees an owl and hears a frog. There are lots of reminders about how cool it is to be outside in summer and what your little might run into if he gets out there. Lots of fun.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I know, I recommend this book For Everything. But come on, what better summer novel is there? I mean, ever? The scene where Atticus has to take care of the diseased dog pops into my head any time I hear the phrase ‘dog days.’ Jem and Scout playing with Dill in the backyard? Um, hello! Summer! I’ve sung the praises of the many lessons of this book many times over, especially in my favorite characters posts, so all I’ll say here is that it is a truly amazing addition to any lesson plan, and it would certainly help put your littles in the summertime mood.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Hello, more frogs and toads. And water rats and badgers and moles and a variety of other animals to befriend. This book not only opens up the imagination to summer, it gives you a great jumping-off place for an animal study. The whole world of the animals is centered around a river, which gives you an opening for a water study. The story is magical–again about the value of friendship–but also funny and entertaining. You can’t really go wrong with this gem.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Another of my all-time faves, Watership Down is an engaging story about a group of rabbits who venture away from their warren to find a new home. A good way to teach your kids about courage and doing what’s right as well as about loyalty, this book is one adventure after another. It makes a wonderful read-aloud. My Littles loved it from the first page to the last and still create games around the story (we read it together 3 years ago). It gives an insightful look at both the habits of animals and human nature that will stay with your littles for a long time to come. In fact, my entire extended family still says that someone has ‘gone tharn’ when they are shocked or frightened into stillness. Read the book. You’ll get it.
I just have to say here, that even if you aren’t studying summer, read all these books with your littles. At least 4 of them make it on my top 20 list. Maybe even top 10. And you know as well as I do that my list of favorite books is probably thousands-long, so that is really saying something.
If you’re looking for a way to add lit to lessons about donkeys and you missed that post, take a look at Day One.