8 Books to Read With Your Kids While Social Distancing

As many schools have closed in response to COVID-19 and nearly everyone is social distancing, we’re all reworking our routines and reimagining what it means to learn from home. There are excellent online resources for students—a number of zoos and museums have opened their virtual doors, for example. But for an analog break, consider creating a reading list with your child. Here are eight books to get you started.

Books to read with elementary school students

Reading is built into elementary-age students’ school days, and it’s important for them to incorporate it into their home learning in order to keep up with fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. For young students who often have less agency over decisions in their lives, present the idea of a reading list as a project that values their interests and is, at its core, an independent or a collaborative project between you and them—not another nonnegotiable task given to them. Discuss with your child their interests and current events, and encourage them to pursue topics that appeal to them. Don’t forget about reading aloud—both them reading aloud and you reading aloud—as an excellent activity that promotes learning. Here are some reading suggestions: 

  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a heartwarming and emotional story about the importance of acceptance. The story focuses on Auggie, who has distinct physical differences from those around him. Wonder is told from the perspective of Auggie, his family, and his classmates, and it instills an important message about compassion and empathy. 

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is one of the most popularly translated books in the French language. A story of exploration and discovery, The Little Prince centers around a boy who encounters a variety of unique individuals on his journey around the universe as he learns lessons on bravery and independence. 

  • The first of a trilogy, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia follows the Gaither sisters on a visit from Brooklyn to Oakland, where they meet their mother for the first time. Set in the 1960s, the sisters encounter the Black Panthers and learn valuable lessons that stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

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Books to read with middle school students

Middle school is a great time to expose your child to a range of genres (if they’re not already familiar with them). To supplement their reading, your tech-savvy child could also explore audiobooks, online author interviews, and podcasts related to what they’re reading. Books to read with your middle schooler include:

  • The Hobbit, written by J. R. R. Tolkien, is a story that engages its readers with a thrilling adventure into a fantasy world. It spotlights a reluctant hobbit who embarks on a journey far from home. While students are spending their days learning from the confines of their homes, this story can encourage their sense of imagination. 

  • 19 Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye is a collection of poems on the Middle East. These poems engage with life’s difficulties, as well as the richness of everyday conversations, meals, and encounters. 

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Books to read with high school students

Your high school student already knows what types of books they do and don’t like. Additionally, they likely know a plethora of tech resources that can support the books they choose to read. Here are three reading suggestions for high schoolers: 

  • The warm, sometimes funny, always candid tone of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay is a masterpiece in generosity to self and each other through difficult times. Steeped in nature and wide in scope—both small and large are valued and honored—these poems celebrate life and our connections to each other and the earth. 

  • Some of your children may enjoy being immersed in novels, especially long ones where they’re along for an unimaginable journey. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead recasts the underground railroad of the early to mid-19th century as a real network of trains and stations and explores all the accompanying implications.  

  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a touching, important story about the rekindling of a relationship from the past. In this book, Mitch has the opportunity to reunite with his college professor, Morrie, in the final months of Morrie’s life. Through their Tuesday meetings, Mitch is able to ask Morrie many questions that he had always longed to know and gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of life. 

During this time, your local library is likely to be closed. If you’re able to, try to borrow or buy books online. You can also order books from a local independent bookstore, some of which are likely to be filling online orders and who may be in need of support during this time. 

If your family has been affected by a COVID-19 school closure, Varsity Tutors is here for you. Register now for Virtual School Day, our free resource for parents, and enjoy access to live, online lessons and other K-12 learning resources.