10 Great Books To Read Under The Stars with Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

10 picture books to read under the stars summer reading challenge

As many of you know I have a long standing relationship with Scholastic. I co-anchor their Raise A Reader blog with Amy Mascott and I am a huge fan of their Summer Reading Challenge as well. When I was asked to join the challenge and share it with my readers it was a no-brainer. I am always impressed with how creative Scholastic is year after year. This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is “Reading Under the Stars” (powered by EVEREADY®). Throughout the summer, kids will read around the galaxy and unlock star constellations as they log reading minutes.

As all parents know one of the hardest things to get our kids to do is school work during the summer. Can we really blame our kids? If you were told that you’d have a vacation for 2 months but then your boss said ” But here is the work you are expected to do.” and handed you a packet would you be happy?

Luckily we have resources like Scholastic that make reading so much fun that it doesn’t seem like there is any work at all.


Scholastic Summer  Reading Challenge is a must! Even if you are participating in a summer reading program at your local library do not skip this one. It’s cinch to sign up !

My son is a competitor by nature so for him having a cool dashboard where he can log his minutes and see weekly challenges makes all the difference. But the Summer Reading Timer App is hands down the coolest. He is game as long as he can compete. You can even hook up with your school and have your minutes go towards the school’s total minutes read. You can compete with friends and their schools all over the nation. The other thing he loves are the videos. Book trailers to get your kids excited about books, videos about popular series ,and even meet the author videos. All of these little details work so well to promote the idea that reading is rad.

The challenge is super social this year too.

  • Every Monday, check Scholastic on Twitter for the #MondayMinutes. See the total number of minutes kids have read to date!
  • Every Friday, check out the Summer Reading Challenge Pinterest Board for a new collage of summer books.

I didn’t want to share this Summer Challenge with you without giving you some great book suggestions. Here are 10 books perfect for reading under the stars. Don’t forget to log your minutes!

grandfather twilight

Grandfather Twilight  by Barbara Helen Berger is a calm sweet story about Grandfather Twilight who carefully takes a pearl from his treasure chest every night and lovingly puts it into the sky, then goes to bed. Great bedtime story for little ones.


Nightsong by Ari Berk is a gorgeous book with a classic tale of stepping out into the world for the first time without a safety net. In this case it’s a young bat ready to go out at night alone for the first time with only it’s “good sense” to see in the darkness. Before he leaves his mother warns him not to go past the pond unless he is sure in his ability. While adults will see this as a show of his confidence when he does, the children I have read this to have all been worried for him when he goes further thinking that the warning was because it was unsafe. I like this book but I think it’s a little figurative for the audience that the format will appeal to. Grab it at the library and decide for yourself.

night lights

Night Lights by Susan Gal is a simple books that will make you want to jump into it’s pages. The patterns used in the illustrations make this book feel like home, I want to jump into it and stay forever. The text follows a little girl as she explores all the different lights found in the dark. From flashlights to fireflies. I love this book and love how it can be used for younger children but isn’t too simplistic for older ones.

the way back home

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers is a moving story about a boy , a martian, and the moon they were both stuck on. Together they figure out a way to get back home even though they are so sad to say goodbye to each other. I love this author, I love his illustrations as well, they are so unique and the emotions he manages to convey are amazing. There is an illustration of the boy and martian standing awkwardly before they have to say goodbye and it embodies the feeling we all have when it’s time to say goodbye to something we don’t want to let go of. Grab anything written by this author and you will be happy!

your moon my moon

Your Moon, My Moon: A Grandmother’s Words to a Faraway Child by Patricia MacLachlan is a sweet story about a grandmother who lives far from her beloved grandchild. The story overflows with love and longing. You can feel how much this grandmother misses her grandchild and it’s a great reminder to young kids how much they are loved. The image of the grandmother on the airplane on the way to see her grandson made me tear up. It made me think of the times I am away from my own children and how those plane rides feel like forever. Lovely book!

dark night

Dark Night by Dorothee de Monfried is a book all about overcoming fear and the role that teamwork can play in that. A little boy is in the woods at night when he sees various monsters and retreats to a hollow tree. After meeting a friendly rabbit they work together to get the little boy home. I like the message that even scary beasts can be scared and that brains can often win over brawn. My daughter LOVED this book although I think it would have terrified her brother at the same age ( just 4).


Light Up the Night by Jean Reidy has a great retro feel to it. The rhyming book is a little boy’s fantastical dream that takes him from his safe bed through the whole universe. The book would be perfect for teaching children about how they fit into the universe. Starting with his bed and expanding out through space then returning his continent, country, state… all the way back to his bed. The fun rhyming text is a great bonus.


Blackout by John Rocco is a book that will mean different things to different readers. My daughter who is four read it with me noticing how something scary happened ( power outage) but that the family ended up having fun anyway. At 37 I read it as a reminder that sometimes it takes being forced to unplug to really step away from our duties and spend time together. The illustrations are fab and you will feel like you are in that city on a hot summer night forced out onto the street along with your neighbors… and love it.

little owl night

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan is a sweet story that introduces children to nocturnal animals in a gentle way. The dark may feel scary to young children but as they read this book they will see that the animals that wake up at night aren’t all scary beasts to be fearful of. The cartoon like illustrations are amazing and bright despite the night time setting. Very cute book.

goodnight mr night

Good Night, Mr. Night by Dan Yaccarino This is another wonderful and calming bedtime book, Mr. Night quiets the animals , closes the flowers and gets the world ready to go night night! I love this book- I keep meaning to pick up the board book version! Like ” Goodnight Moon” there aren’t too many words, but the illustrations are perfect! My son likes to say “Come here Mr.Night” while getting into bed when we read this one.


As mentioned above this post is sponsored by Scholastic.


Summer Activities Link Up { add your post! }

kids crafts


How have you been staying busy this summer? Do you have great ideas to share with No Time For Flash Card readers? Add a link or two to your fun activity posts, kids crafts, and book recommendations. If you have never linked up to Link & Learn before don’t be shy. The more the merrier so jump right in.

Every summer I focus much of my time and energy on summer reading. Monday night you can join me and Scholastic for a fun Twitter chat talking about how you can re-energize summer reading with your kids.  We will share tips, tricks, and of course ask parents what works for them. Check out the invite below and don’t miss my literacy focused articles and activities over at Scholastic Parent’s Raise A Reader blog. reenergizesummerreading-v2

Summer Reading Challenge Update!

summer reading This summer has proved to be my busiest yet but I wanted to pop in and update everyone about our Summer Reading Challenge. As you can see we have read over 7500 books so far which is awesome but not awesome enough if we want to reach our 30,000 book goal.  So you have to help by reading with your kids!

How it works 

1. Read. You can read to your kids or if your kids can read they can read to you or independently. It all counts!

2. Come here and fill in how many books or chapters you have read per family. Just enter the number no need to write out titles. You may enter no more than once per day or you can use our tally sheet printable and track your books read and enter less frequently. We count complete chapters as equal to one picture book because we want to celebrate all readers and know that chapter books can take a long time to complete.

3. Every time you enter your books and /or chapters you will be automatically entered into our Summer Reading Challenge Sweepstakes.

What You Can Win

1. Monthly Book Prize Packs !  On June 15th, July 15th and August 15th I will draw an entry and that person will win a prize pack to say thanks for participating. The books will be chosen based on age of the children in the winning family. Each will contain 4- 6 books handpicked by me based on your child’s age and reading level. The prize packs are worth approximately $20 each.


2. Grand Prize  $50 Amazon.com Gift Card to buy books, craft supplies or a pair of cute boots for the fall ! I will draw one winner from all the entries on September 1st 2013 using random.org


The real prize is reading with your children!


summer reading entry form




Q: If I have more than one child do I enter the number of books we read as a family or do separate entries for each child?

A: Please enter as a family. So if you have 2 kids that read 4 books each enter 8 books for that day.


Q: Can I do this if I am doing other Summer Reading Challenges?

A: Absolutely! I highly encourage you to participate in ones at your local library and Scholastic’s Summer Challenge too!


Q: If I forget to enter my books for one day can I add them the next?

A: You can add your book tally as often as once per day or as infrequently as you like. Some people add them in big chunks others a little at a time. All we ask is that you do not add them more than once per day.


Q: If my child reads the same book 10 times in one day do I count it as one  or ten?

A: TEN! We know that kids love to re read their favorites and this is all about enjoying reading so if they enjoy the same book ten times more power to them! It counts as 10.


Q: Who is sponsoring this? Are you getting paid for this?

A: I am sponsoring it. I look forward to this all year long and am excited that I can add a few more prizes this year. No company or publisher has any part in it.


Q: My child is not reading yet does it count if I read to them?

A: 100% yes!  Most of our readers are parents with children who are not reading independently yet. This challenge is all about getting families to read. Children do not need to be reading solo yet to participate. If you read a book to your baby that counts too! We want to get families to make reading a habit and have fun doing it.

Official Rules
This sweepstakes is open to American residents 18 years or older. To be eligible for the sweepstakes you must fill out this form as stated above. 3 winning participators ( 1 per month)  will be drawn at random, using Random.org on June 15th ,  July 15th and August 15th by 8pm PST on that day . The winner will receive a book pack prize valued at approximately $20. Grand Prize : 1 winning participator will be drawn at random, using Random.org, after the sweepstakes closes on September 1st 2013 at 8:00pm PST. The winner will receive a $50 Amazon.com gift card valued at approximately $50. After the winners are notified he or she has 48 hours to respond with their email address to send the prize to,or another winner will be chosen at random. No purchase necessary.The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Any information gathered through the sweepstakes including email and postal addresses will not be used in anyway other than contacting winners and shipment of winnings. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Last Day Of School Party & DIY

last day of school partyStart your summer off right with a fun celebration that includes books and motivation for summer reading. Just because school is out does not mean that your kids are going to turn off their brains until it’s back in. Let them celebrate and have fun but know that summer is going to be about more than extra TV time.  Even if your last day of school has already passed you could use these same ideas for a kick off to summer reading.

This celebration is somewhat hypothetical for us because school isn’t out here for another 3 weeks! But this is my plan and I can’t wait!

5 Steps For A Simple Celebration

1. Prepare the sign.  We are using our easel . It will be blocking the door so when we arrive home from the bus it’s waiting for him to start the celebrations! You could also use banner paper covering the front door, side walk chalk on the driveway or spell it out in balloons!  No matter how you do it make it big enough so in their excited state they don’t miss it.

2. Prepare the treat . I know you don’t want to reward with food but this is a celebration and for us that means cake! Here is how we made this easy peasy 2 minute DIY mini banner.  You will need some construction paper, double stick tape, a pipe cleaner, 2 kabob skewers, scissors and a marker. summer party bannerStart by folding your paper in two and cutting a strip about an inch from the folded edge. Cut it into triangles. Some will be folded some won’t. Make sure you have 6 folded ones. Write summer on the folded ones one letter per folded triangle. Add double stick tape to it and fold over the pipe cleaner. Make sure there is enough pipe cleaner on either edge to wind around the skewer. After all the letter flags are on secure it to the skewers and add to the cake. last day of school 2 minute cake banner


3. Prepare the gift. Books are a must. You don’t need to buy them, you can get a stack out from the library but you need to make it clear that they are special and will be read during summer break. If you need a great guide for books try our book gift guide , book lists or try Scholastic’s Book Wizard .  I included some books for my husband and I to read with my son, some picture books for him to share and read to his sister, some early chapter books he can read solo or with us and some non fiction too!

books for summer reading

4. Summer Reading Bucket List – print it out ( email me for a high res version) and include it with your books. last day of school party


5. Summer Coupon Book ( click here to print our version) . These are little treats like staying up later to read, getting to decide on what movie we watch for family movie night and S’mores! Nothing huge just some fun things to look forward to. last day of school party

As a parent I struggle trying to balance making milestones fun but not making them too over the top. I don’t want to set my kids up for the expectation that everything they do , especially things we expect them to do deserves a huge celebration with lavish gifts. I do however want to encourage summer reading, learning all year long and I think this simple celebration focuses on that.

Do you do something special for the last day of school? Tell us about it in comments.


Summer Reading Bucket List

Summer Reading Bucket List

The school year is almost over and if you are like me you have already started planning your family calendar for the whole season. Before you declare all the planning done take some time and plan your summer reading adventure!

Summer reading isn’t just for fun it’s the best way to prevent summer slide. Did you know that it’s estimated that teachers spend on average 4-6 weeks re-teaching material children have forgotten over the summer? Think of all the time that teachers could have for other things if we send our kids ready to learn new material instead of reviewing and re-learning . My kids and I brainstormed fun, silly and educational ideas for summer reading and came up with this bucket list. Follow the links to book recommendations .

  1. Read in a tent.
  2. Read a book about wild animals.
  3. Read a book in the bath.
  4. Read a book under a tree.
  5. Read a book about a city far away.
  6. Read at dinner.
  7. Read a magazine.
  8. Read as a family.
  9. Read a book about your country.
  10. Read in a blanket fort.
  11. Read a book about friendship.
  12. Read a comic book.
  13. Read at the park.
  14. Read a magazine.
  15. Read a book about art.
  16. Read a book that makes your laugh.
  17. Read a book with a flashlight.
  18. Read a book to a pet.
  19. Read at the beach.
  20. Read a book about space.
  21. Read a book in a funny accent.
  22. Read a book while having ice cream.
  23. Read a book then act it out.
  24. Read a book and capture it on video.
  25. Read a biography.
  26. Read a book with chapters.
  27. Read a book about bugs.
  28. Read a book without any words.
  29. Read an alphabet book.
  30. Read a pop up book
  31. Read at breakfast.
  32. Read a book you wrote yourself.
  33. Read an ebook .
  34. Read all summer long.


As you know together with Amy Mascott I write  all about family literacy for Scholastic Parent’s Raise A Reader blog .  On Monday night we will be taking over  Scholastic Parent’s Facebook page for a great kick off of their Scholastic Summer Challenge. This year is set to be the best yet and Amy and I will be answering questions to get you and your family ready for a summer filled with reading. Do not miss it!