Summer Picture Books for Kids

Is there any season that screams “childhood” louder than summer? With trips to the beach, camping, fireworks, bubbles, and ice cream, summer is nostalgic for a reason. As the weather warms up, I like to lean into these fun themes with summer picture books to inspire learning. If you need some new read-alouds for your rotation, you’ll love this list of summer favorites!

Choosing Summer Picture Books

One of the great things about summer is that there are SO many fun themes to choose from. Depending on the age of your kids, and what you’re hoping to learn, there are many different topics to explore. In my lessons, I love to have variety, so I tend to pick a few different themes to use. Some of my favorites over the years have included:

Choosing fun themes for your summer picture books means more engagement and buy in from your students.
  • ocean animals
  • beach
  • summer safety
  • 4th of July
  • camping
  • vacations

I like to choose a theme or two and then plan all of my lessons and read-alouds to connect with the topics in some way. This streamlines my planning, makes our activities feel cohesive, and keeps engagement high. Plus, reading books on these topics is a great opportunity to dive into social learning and build classroom relationships too! Speaking of reading, without further ado, let’s hop into my favorite summer picture books for kids!

1. Summer Vacation, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinburg

Summer Vacation, Here I come is a great addition to your summer picture books your students will love and a great way to kick off summer reading.

Looking to show your students all of the fun that awaits them on summer break? This book is the perfect way to showcase some of the common activities and events that take place over the summer months. I love reading this toward the final days of the school year and chatting with students about what they are most looking forward to on their own summer vacation.

This book uses poetry to describe fun summer activities such as splashing in a community pool, heading out on a family road trip, and more. Students will love listening to the poems that vividly describe special trips and activities. If your students are old enough, consider having them craft their own summer poem after reading aloud!

2. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall is a relatable story about tackling fears and is a great book to add to your list of summer picture books this year.

Speaking of community pools, this book will likely be relatable to any of your students who have ever been fearful of the tall diving board. In this book, a young boy named Jabari wants to jump off the big diving board. He’s taken swim lessons and passed his test, so the time has come! Jabari feels confident he can do it as he watches other swimmers get ready to take the plunge.

Students will love watching this story unfold as some fears begin to surface and Jabari’s father cheers him on. I love using this book as a catalyst for a discussion about things that have seemed scary, but worth pursuing. Students often have their own fun stories to tell about swimming, camping, rollercoasters, and sleeping at a friend’s house for the first time.

3. Turkey’s Sandtastic Beach Day by Wendy Silvano

Your students will love this hilarious book full of laughs and fun illustrations as part of their summer picture books reading suggestions.

No summer vacation is complete without a trip to the beach, right? That’s what Turkey certainly thinks in this hilarious tale. In this book, Turkey is visiting the ocean for the first time. When he arrives, things don’t go as he planned… he finds himself stuck inside the petting zoo on the boardwalk! This is not what he envisioned!

He dreams of playing in the waves, surfing, and splashing with his animal friends. Lucky for Turkey, his friends have some very interesting ideas to help him get the beach day of his dreams! Students will be roaring with laughter as you reach this one aloud! I like to use this story alongside my Ocean Animals Unit. You’ll find tons of fun lessons, center games, and writing activities that would be an excellent follow-up to the story.

4. A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

This summer picture book is perfect for a camping theme and will make your students seriously laugh out loud. Many of them have likely been camping before, but I doubt their trips were as eventful as this silly story! In this book, Mr. Maggee and his dog find themselves in all sorts of trouble after a marshmallow-hungry bear wants to steal their snacks!

These campers find themselves on a raging river, falling off a mountain, and even on the edge of a waterfall! Students will love following along to see how Mr. Magee and his dog, Dee get out of this tricky situation! Try extending this activity by asking students what they think the solution might be and brainstorming together before moving on to the next page.

5. And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner

Looking for a summer picture book that will describe all of the seasonal wonders that students can look forward to? This book is the one for you! In this story, students will hear descriptions of summer that vividly explain what to expect as the season changes.

Longer days, flip-flops, outdoor games, fireworks, and ice cream trucks are just some of the wonderful summer things discussed in this book. This book uses a rhythmic, lyrical writing style that will make students super excited to explore summer vacation and all it has to offer!

6. When You Can Swim by Jack Wong

Do any of your students have plans to learn to swim over the break? If so, this summer picture book will absolutely wow them! This book explores what it really means to be a swimmer, and all the wonder that awaits! The author uses detailed wording to describe what swimming looks like and feels like. This book creates a visual explanation of swimming that’s unlike anything else!

This book describes the excitement and surprises that come with learning to swim, as well as where new swimmers might find themselves exploring. I like to use this book as a starting point for a discussion on interesting places to swim. Ask students where they would like to swim and encourage them to think big! Oceans, lakes, pools, water parks, and more! What types of adventure might each place hold? Make a chart with all of the suggestions and then send them off to write their own poem or story about swimming in the body of water of their choosing.

7. Cooler Than Lemonade by Harshita Jerath

Hosting a lemonade stand is a quintessential rite of passage in childhood. There’s something intriguing about the process, and honestly, what sounds better on a hot summer day than lemonade? In this summer picture book, Eva decides to make her own lemonade stand on one hot summer day. As she goes out to set up shop, she realizes another child, Jake is already running one across the street and he’s offering free cookies!

Eva knows she must think up some creative ideas to attract customers to her stand, so she decides to have other flavors available too! The two children compete with ideas, leveling up each time! Students will love following along as the children come up with more ideas to succeed. This is a great book to read on a fun Friday, especially if you have time to teach students how to make their own homemade lemonade!

8. The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor

Building sand castles is another one of those activities that just screams summer vacation! In this sweet, summer picture book, a young girl named Lola is working hard on her dream castle. She’s got big plans for this castle including a tall tower, and a way to communicate with mermaids. When a toddler accidentally steps on her masterpiece, instead of getting mad, she recruits him to help her rebuild it.

This book is a heartwarming story about making the best of mistakes. As Lola and the youngster work together, the sand castle can become something even better than before! This book goes beautifully alongside many of the activities in my Ocean Animals Unit. Inside you’ll find lots of fun beach themes and activities, including a reader called “How to Build a Sandcastle”. This reader is the perfect follow-up to this book!

9. Hot Dog by Doug Salati

This summer picture book won the 2023 Caldecott Medal and it’s one of the cutest on this whole list! In this sweet story, an overheated pup explores the beach to cool off and calm down. This “hot dog” has had enough of summer heat in the city and decides it’s time to explore a more relaxing climate.

She takes a journey by taxi, train, and ferry to reach the calming scene of a beach. Students will love listening as the author describes the differences between a bustling city and the calm, serene feeling of the ocean air. This book offers a much-needed dose of peace and tranquility to any classroom environment!

10. Summer is for Cousins by Rajani LaRocca

Summer vacations are often filled with visits from loved ones and extended family. In this book, students will follow along as Ravi looks forward to his summer vacation at the lake house with his family.

He thinks of all the fun pastimes in store for him such as days at the beach, long hikes, paddleboarding, and enjoying ice cream! This book explores extended family relationships, as well as the things that can change from year to year. I know your kids will love this one!

These suggestions are just a small sampling of some of my favorite summer picture books. If you’re in need of even more inspiration, be sure to check out my full list of summer favorites on Amazon!

Lessons for Summer Picture Books

If you’re looking for some fun and engaging lessons to go along with your picture books, you know I’ve got you covered! As I mentioned above, many of these books work well with the centers and activities in my Ocean Animals Unit.

Inside this unit, you’ll find math games, literacy centers, writing prompts, craftivities, mini readers, and more! With over 1600 pages, there are plenty of options and a way to differentiate for everyone!

I also tend to use my Sharks Unit throughout the summer. This is especially fun if you’re learning about oceans, beaches, or sea life. Students love learning about sharks, so they’re a great theme option to snag attention and keep it! If you’re looking for books about sharks, be sure to take a peek at this post too. You’ll find many more great recommendations to carry you through the summer months!

Using Summer Picture Books with a Reading Challenge

If you’re looking for more ways to use these summer picture books, I have one more suggestion that I think you’ll LOVE! Try a Summer Reading Challenge with your students! A reading challenge is a bit like a reading log, but way more fun! Students will look at the included prompts such as “read a book about the beach” or “read a book outside” and try to complete as many as they can. This is a great summer project to keep your students reading.

Free Summer reading challenge for kids - a great way to encourage reading over the summer break

If you want to give this a try with your students, this FREE Summer Reading Challenge is for you! Follow the link to grab the freebie and get started today! You’ll love having a fun way to motivate students to read summer picture books all season long.

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