Our Summer Reading Picks – Kids Edition



When the final bell rings on the last day of school, kids are looking forward to time with friends, camps or vacations and all the summer adventures that lie ahead. And what better adventure than getting lost in a good book?


We asked local readers for their recommendations to keep kids engaged, creative and inspired – all while helping to fight the summer slide.




For Building Self-Esteem (Preschool)

I Like Myself!


By Karen Beaumont


Full of energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves – inside and out.


-Mark Keeley, President & CEO, St. Louis Arc




Exploring Emotions (Preschool)

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings


By Jo Witek


With poetic but direct language, readers encounter new words and opportunities to practice articulating emotions.


-United Way staff pick




Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (Ages 4-8)

Mixed: A Colorful Story


By Arree Chung


In the beginning, the reds, the yellows, and the blues all think they’re the best in this vibrant, thought-provoking picture book about acceptance and unity.


-Toni Jackson, Center Director, Cornerstone Center for Early Learning




Lessons About Disability (Ages 7-10)

My Brother Charlie


By Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete


Actress and national autism spokesperson Holly Robinson Peete collaborated with her daughter Ryan to write this story about Callie and her twin brother Charlie, who has autism.


-Mark Keeley, President & CEO, St. Louis Arc




Local History (Ages 8-12)

Growing Up with the River: Nine Generations on the Missouri


By Dan and Connie Burkhardt


Readers meet nine generations of children who grew up along the Missouri River, from Hermann to St. Charles, in this story that is beautifully illustrated by Missouri landscape painter Bryan Haynes.


-United Way staff pick




For Inspiring Kindness (Ages 8-12)



By R. J. Palacio


Adapted into an acclaimed major motion picture, this unforgettable story follows Auggie, who was born with a facial difference, and his community’s struggle with empathy, compassion and acceptance.


-Susan Kidder, CEO, Safe Connections




Friendship and Grief (Teens and Young Adults)

What I Leave Behind


By Alison McGhee


After his dad takes his own life, Will begins secretly helping the people around him – acts of kindness that eventually empower him to process his trauma.


– Lisa Krystosek, Counselor, Provident




Complexities of Race and Gender (Teens and Young Adults)

Piecing Me Together


By Renée Watson


Acclaimed author Renee Watson offers a powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it’s trying to break her.


-Troy Metheney, Executive Director, Illinois Center for Autism



Take action now:

  • Looking for ideas for your own summer reading? Check out our list for grownups!
  • Share this story with friends and family!