Why Your Child Needs a Book Basket This Summer

This article has been updated on

Summer is here and it can be difficult for us to find that balance between allowing free reign and really developing some good skills for children to take with them into the academic year. Even small children feel the pull of summer, and the drive to go outside to feel the warm summer sun and the dirt under their feet! Big kids (I’m talking to your parents) are drawn to the summer break, pulling us towards lazy days by the pool and vacations.

But it’s important that we not completely let go of our brains while we soak in the warm summer sun. The more exposure that your child has to the written word, the easier it will be for them to read and thereby succeed!

One of the easiest and most effective ways to help your kids to stay engaged with text is through book baskets. It doesn’t take a professional to get your kids involved in reading, any parent can do it. You can mold book baskets to kids at all levels – from infants to toddlers to preschoolers to school-aged kids and even teenagers. The idea here is to give them something to think about that goes across disciplines, showing them how connections can be made between different areas of learning, and of life.

Get a book basket for each of your children, no matter what their age. You can get them just about anywhere, but here are a few good choices.

Romanoff Book Basket Romanoff Book Basket
3 Sprouts Storage Caddy 3 Sprouts Storage Caddy
Better Homes and Gardens Wire Storage BasketBetter Homes and Gardens Wire Storage Basket

This basket will be YOUR child’s basket for the entire summer. You don’t need incentives if you do two things:

  1. Put things in the basket that are of interest to your kids.
  2. Mandate regular screen free time (at least an hour per day)

Now that you’ve got your baskets, it’s time to fill them! What do you fill them with you ask? Let’s break it down by age.

Infants and Toddlers

Here you want to have one book and then fill the rest with tactile items that connect to the book. These don’t have to be store-bought but can be toys that your child already has. Think tactile, touchable things. You’ll also do well to get the board book versions of these books so that little hands can easily handle them without fear of tearing the books apart.

Depending on your child’s needs, you might rotate out this one a couple of times a week. Allow there to be time for them to really explore the objects again and again.  You can store it all in a large Ziploc bag when not in use, so as not to have to go back and put it all together again.

Here are some examples of books that are great for infants and toddlers, and what items to include in your book basket!

NameItems to Include
Little Blue Truck
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Plush toy caterpillar
  • Play food
  • Butterfly (try making a simple one from tissue paper for a crinkly effect!)
  • A stick (be careful of the pointy ends)
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Plush toy rabbit
  • Light jacket and shoes (Peter loses his shoe and his jacket)
  • Small plastic watering can
  • Toy teacup and saucer

Preschool through Early Elementary

Preschoolers and early elementary school kids are ready for much more complex and enriching text, and they’re also ready to move up to books with paper pages! You’re also working on much more complex skills here and can give your child some ways to expand the skills that they’re learning in class.

Now you’re going to move away from including just books and toys that mimic the actions within those books to adding in activities that build on what’s in the books. This is much more like building school skills. The time limit on these is more like a week before you rotate them out, as your kids will need more time to get through all of the activities.

NameItems to Include
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Math flash cards
  • Pedometer (for running)
  • Colored paint cards (get these free from a home store)
  • Math workbook (look at dollar stores)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Book about Australia ([easyazon_link identifier=”1404803505″ locale=”US” alt=”book for kids” cart=”n”]Australia ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Australia, $6.65 on Amazon)
  • Toothbrush
  • Can of lima beans
  • Drawing pad and pencil
  • 100 chart for counting (you can print one out)
  • Learning clock (try the Learning Resources Write-On/Wipe Off Demo Clock
  • Toy frog
  • Large fold-out map
  • Green paper and crayons to make lily pads

Late Elementary and Beyond

For older kids, you’re really looking towards chapter books and much more detailed content.  Here you’re going to offer kids the opportunity to explore their interests and to enrich the tales of the books with online resources, nonfiction that backs up the texts, and documentaries about the subjects that they’re connected to.

For kids, third grade and beyond, including a book journal in their book basket. Writing is just as important as reading for older kids. This isn’t school, so you aren’t going to be asking them to write book reports, and you aren’t grading them on their grammar and spelling. You’re really just keeping them practicing those skills.

Kids reading levels will vary widely from here on out, because at this point your kids are reading to themselves rather than having you read to them. The following books and activities are for kids aged 9-12, though remember again that your child’s reading level and interest might vary widely from these! Be creative! These book baskets will, of course, last your child two weeks or more as they are filled with chapter books and much more complex material

NameItems to Include
[easyazon_link identifier=”0786838655″ locale=”US” alt=”book for kids” cart=”n”]The Lightning Thief
Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • Book on ocean life from the library
  • Survivor Kid: A Practical Guide to Wilderness Survival
  • Model Ship Kit

The Bottom Line on Book Baskets

Books in and of themselves are exciting and enthralling, but book baskets help the whole experience of reading come to life even more. You’re helping to make connections between text and the real world and to foster those connections so that children can take the lessons that they’re learning and apply them to their own lives. Books don’t just happen in isolation, they’re part of a rich and varied world.

Don’t forget yourself! Remember that your kids are modeling your behavior, so if they see you reading and making connections with what you’re interested in, they’ll be more likely to make those connections themselves. So maybe next time you’re reading a book, do the same! If you’re reading a novel about Italy, make some spaghetti for dinner.

If you’re loving Game of Thrones, then maybe it’s time to check out a documentary on Medieval history. Model the behaviors that you want to see in your children for the most impact on their habits. And remember that avid readers see the books that they read in the world all around them – not just in the pages.

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