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UPDATED Summer Reading List

Dear Mothers and Fathers,

Since I created the first version of the reading list, I’ve had quite a few requests from parents interested in helping their primary school students develop strong reading habits and build the foundations for a future love of literature. As a result, I’ve created the 2.0 version of my reading list, which focuses on suggesting high quality literary works for students currently reading below the 800 level. As I explained in my recent presentation for The Bund Education, I use the Lexile Framework for Reading as a means of ranking the difficulty of books because it extends from the primary through the secondary levels. Please note that, since it is sometimes difficult to find a clear indication of a specific book’s level, I have elected to approximate the levels of each book included on the list.

One aspect of the Recommended Reading List 2.0 I would like to highlight is the addition of series of “chapter” books. Although chapter books rarely display the kind of literary merit we associate with Newbery Medal winners, they are a valuable tool for transitioning from illustrated picture books to more sophisticated children’s literature because typically the books in the series become more and more advanced. So students who read the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pop Osborne, for example, begin at the 300 level but finish at the 800 level. By the time students complete the series, they are able to transition to more demanding children’s literature, such as the titles included in the 1.0 version of the list. Moreover, when a child falls in love with a series of books, regardless of the quality of the literature, she is developing both an appreciation of literature and a habit of reading, two traits that will prove invaluable as she grows older and must read more and more in order to succeed academically.

In addition, I’ve added quite a few individual poems written by literary giants but intended for children. Christina Rossetti, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and John Keats have all contributed very important poems to the English literary canon, and each is studied regally as part of the IB or AP English literature curriculum, as well as in college and beyond. I think there is value in exposing students to these poets at a young age not only because the poems themselves are beautiful in their lyricism, but also because even young children are capable of feeling the awe literary enthusiasts feel when they encounter for the first time the work of a renowned author.

Finally, I have decided to delete Richard Wright’s Black Boy from the list of recommended nonfiction. When I first created the list, I expected a more significant portion of my audience to consist of IB and AP English students, but I have since realized that few of the students relying on my list for summer reading are ready for the content and themes explored in Wright’s nonfiction masterpiece. However, I do still highly recommend Black Boy to more mature students, especially those interested in encountering the themes that dominate postwar African American literature.

I hope these works of literature inspire in your children an appreciation for the value of the written word and an aptitude to meet upcoming academic challenges!


Edward Dunnigan

CEO and Founder, Dragon Prep

Prose Fiction

  1. The Magic Treehouse (series) by Mary Pope Osborne [300-800 level]

  2. Boxcar Children (series) Gertrude Chandler Warren [400-700 level]

  3. Humphrey (series) by Betty G. Birney [400-700 level]

  4. American Girl (series) by various authors [400-1000 level]

  5. Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon [500-800 level]

  6. Encyclopedia Brown (series) by Donald J. Sobol [500-600 level]

  7. Gooney Bird (series) by Lois Lowry [500-600 level]

  8. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl [600 level]

  9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint [700 level]

  10. Little House on the Prairie (series) by Lauren Ingalls Wilder [700-1000 level]

  11. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett [900 level]

  12. Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O'Dell [1000 level]

Note: While I have never read the American Girls series (and have even heard from colleagues that the quality of some books in the series is somewhat lacking), I have added these books to my list for two reasons. First, the series covers a remarkably broad range of reading levels, allowing students to challenge themselves as they progress through the series. Second, Chinese students who read these books will learn much about United States culture and history, or at least mainstream points of view on the events the books detail. Ultimately, series of chapter books are valuable primarily for their ability to keep students interested as they progress from lower to higher reading levels.


"Caterpillar" by Christina Rossetti

"My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson

"The Cow" by Robert Louis Stevenson

"Trees" by Sarah Coleridge

"There Was a Naughty Boy" by John Keats

"A Child's Evening Prayer" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"You Are Old, Father William" by Lewis Carroll

About this Reading List

The reading list is the intellectual property of Edward Dunnigan, who holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Chicago as well as an IB English Language & Literature Certification. In order to create this list, Edward reflected on his own reading habits as a child and young adult, spoke with his mother (a noted early childhood educator), and researched the ways education experts rank works of literature based on the Lexile Framework for Reading and various other systems for determining reading difficulty. Please feel free to reach out to Edward at with any questions. He is happy to provide additional recommendations.

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