Step Up Your Learning Through Summer Reading!

Searching for Inspiration for Your Summer Reading?

It’s not too late to add some good reads to your list! With many schools around the world now well into their summer vacations, we know that children and teachers alike are already making their way through their summer reading lists. Beyond stimulating students’ imaginations and creativity, books can help children form social connections and improve their empathy skills and engage in conversations around important themes like diversity, social justice, and activism. Reading can even build students’ strength and resilience by encouraging reflection on challenging times— something school communities need now more than ever before.

For those of you still putting your lists together—or starting your search for titles for the new school year early—we thought we would pull together some suggestions and resources, drawing from our incredible community of Empatico educators, friends, and partners, to help you infuse some opportunities for SEL into your summer! 

Empathy- and Connection-Building Across Differences

You might have heard that we recently wrapped up our first Empathy Across the USA: Race and Identity program focused on cultivating students’ social awareness, creating opportunities for bridge-building, and promoting student-led civic engagement. Throughout the program, classrooms across the USA read books to spark reflection on the value of diversity, friendship, and cross-racial understanding. Some classrooms even engaged in book exchanges with their partner classes to explore these themes together!

Here are a few of the titles students enjoyed during the program:


Participants in Empathy Across the USA love these books!

Social Justice and Changemaking

In the past year and a half, speaking up and leading change has become more important than ever, and this movement toward change-making isn’t limited to adults. Children and teens can find ways to raise their voices and take steps toward building a better world by engaging in a diversity of causes!

Reading can inspire students interested in creating change in their local communities or even those looking for ways to make an impact on a larger scale. This summer, some of our friends and partners have shared many helpful resources for teachers and parents curating summer reading lists for their classrooms.

Our friends at Teaching for Change previously launched, sharing more than 50 book lists that feature multicultural books and titles delving into social justice for students and educators. For middle school teachers hoping to motivate their classes to take action, Edutopia has put together this list of titles exploring different themes under the umbrella of activism. Common Sense Media has also highlighted book recommendations for students of all ages starting on a path of activism here.

Even over the summer, when many students are outside of the classroom, reading doesn’t have to be an individual experience. Teachers and parents can encourage children and young adults to join or form reading groups to identify and think critically through themes of social justice in collaboration with their peers. Learning for Justice has crafted this guide covering the value of this approach to reading and the steps students, educators, and parents can take to start building reading groups in their communities.

Learning Opportunities for Educators

Summer isn’t just a time for students to immerse themselves in a world of reading. We know that—in addition to taking time for some well-deserved rest and relaxation—many educators take this time to explore new titles on teaching and learning to gear up for a new school year.

Given the tough year many of us, and especially school communities, have undergone, this summer, in particular, offers the perfect time for educators to reflect, prioritize their wellbeing, and set intentions for what might be a challenging transition back into the classroom in the fall. These two lists by Edutopia include helpful suggestions of titles of interest to teachers reeling from and reflecting on a difficult year: Summer 2021 Reads for Teachers and Summer Reading During Turbulent Times.

In these challenging times, integrating SEL into the classroom experience has also become even more important. Helping students build empathy and foster meaningful connections with their teams can help students readjust to new school routines and environments in the fall and appreciate the resiliency they’ve shown in the face of obstacles over the past year. For teachers seeking to bring more SEL into the fold of their curriculum this year, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) offers this useful list of recommended titles.

More Summer Reads and Beyond

For children interested in unearthing even more themes through their summer reading, our partners at First Book have categorized their recommended titles by age, topic, genre, and even book type here. Their lists cover a range of themes, from SEL and civic engagement to empowering stories about women and girls.

Whatever the subject you might be hoping to discover through your reading, we hope these resources offer some guidance as you make your plans—and settle into a cozy reading nook—for a summer full of fun and learning. And remember, a summer reading list can never be too long! There’s always room for some spillover into the coming school year!

Already started or completed your summer reading list? Make sure to share your recommendations with us so we can spread the word!