virtual book club
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The remote school year is winding down, but you didn’t help them with schoolwork so they could fall into a summer slide. While physical libraries are closed, summer reading programs have gone virtual so kids can still log their reading, take on challenges and win prizes.

Check out your local library’s website and social media pages. Are they offering a virtual summer reading program? Connect with the Libby app to access e-books and e-audiobooks from your devices. Just download the app, enter your library barcode and you’ll have access to books, audiobooks, magazines and other perks (like movies or music), depending on your library’s resources.

Barnes & Noble is offering its own summer reading program, which motivates your kids with a free book. Grades 1-6 can read eight books and fill out a summer reading journal in English or Spanish. If they return the completed journal between July 1 and August 3, they’ll get a free book in return.

If you’re looking for another way to keep your kids connected with their friends, why not try a virtual book club?

A virtual book club will not only keep them reading this summer, it’ll help your kids stay in touch with their friends—and they might be more likely to hold themselves accountable if they’re part of a group and on a schedule.

To start a virtual book club, here’s some suggestions from Penguin Random House:

  • Organize a group of friends
  • Pick a virtual platform to meet on: Zoom, Facetime and Google Hangout are great options
  • Brainstorm a list of books and decide what order your group wants to read them
  • Set a schedule. How many pages will your group commit to reading each week? When will you check in?
  • Ask everyone to come up with a question or discussion topic for each meeting

Before your kids go to purchase any books they might need, for all books sold on Zulily from June 22 through August 3, Penguin Random House will donate a book to Save the Children in a special buy one, give on event. Up to 50,000 books will be donated to kids in need.

Kids can also reach out to authors on social media—they may have something to add to your kids’ discussion. To engage their book club further, kids can also suggest making snacks that go along with the theme of the book. It may also be a good idea to set up some rules, like a speaking order or signal when someone wants to chime in, that way readers aren’t talking over one another.

This year, NJ’s summer reading slogan is “Imagine Your Story,” aimed to tie into fairytale, folktale, fantasy and mythology themes. Here are some titles to get them excited about summer reading and remember, summer reading is all about encouraging them to read what they love so let your kids lead with their picks, too.

BOARD BOOKS

Mini Myths: Be Careful, Icarus!

Harry N. Abrams

By Joan Holub
Harry N. Abrams, $6.69
Ages 1-3
This modern-day take on a classic mythological tale follows Icarus and his bird-shaped kite. When his dad warns him not to let his kite fly too high, Icarus doesn’t listen and it gets caught in the trees. They repair it together and Icarus learns an important lesson about being careful.

Maui Hooks the Islands

BeachHouse Publishing

By Gabrielle Ahulii
BeachHouse Publishing, $7.95
Ages 0-4

Your Moana fans will love this story about one of Hawaii’s best-known legends, Maui, the demigod who fished up the Hawaaian islands using a magic fishing hook. Using poetic language, your kids will learn more about Hawaii’s origin story and how the trickster demigod uses his wits, strength and magic to create something beautiful.

PICTURE BOOKS

Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest

HMH Books for Young Readers

By Gerald McDermott
HMH Books for Young Readers, $7.99
Ages 4-7
This Native American folktale describes the birth of the sun through Raven, the trickster that wishes to give people the gift of light. He needs to find where the Sky Chief keeps it and use his wits to plan an escape so the sun can shine down on the world.

Where’s Halmoni?

Little Bigfoot

By Julie Kim
Little Bigfoot, $19.99
Ages 5-9
In a world inspired by Korean folklore, a young pair of siblings visit their Halmoni (grandmother in Korean) only to find she’s not home. They notice animal tracks on the floor and a new window, slightly ajar, that leads into a fantastical world. As they follow the tracks and search for their Halmoni, they learn more about their cultural heritage through the Korean-speaking characters they meet along the way.

Hang In There, Hope!

Amazon

By Meghan Steudler; Illustrated by Susan Sylvester
$7.99
For parents looking for picture books that’ll give their children an optimistic outlook on social distancing, this title may help. Hope is used to playing and exploring—until one day that all changes. She learns the importance of keeping a positive attitude and begins to understand that while she may not be able to hang out with her friends or visit her grandparents now, she will in the future.

MIDDLE GRADE

Race to the Sun

virtual book club
Rick Riordan Presents

By Rebecca Roanhorse
Rick Riordan Presents, $16.99
Ages 8-12
Set in New Mexico, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay begins to detect monsters, and when she sees her father’s new boss, Mr. Charles, she has a bad feeling. When he expresses interest in her and her brother Mac, their Navajo heritage and the legend of the Hero Twins, Nizhoni tells her father—but he doesn’t think Mr. Charles is a threat. Before their father disappears the next day, he leaves them a message to run and the siblings (plus their best friend, Davery) find themselves on a rescue mission with help from Diné Holy People. To defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed, the three must pass a seemingly impossible series of trials.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

virtual book club
Rick Riordan Presents

By Kwame Mbalia
Rick Riordan Presents, $17.99
Ages 8-12
Ever since Tristan was in a bus accident that killed his best friend Eddie, he hasn’t felt strong. He’s sent to his grandparents’ farm in Alabama to heal, and he takes Eddie’s story journal with him. On Tristan’s first night there, a sticky creature steals the notebook. When he follows the creature and attempts to steal the book back, Tristan accidentally punches a Bottle Tree, which opens a chasm into the MidPass—a place with haunted bone ships, iron monsters and a burning sea. He discovers he is now a part of a battle that black American folk heroes have faced before, and in order to get home, he’ll need to find the god Anansi and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with Anansi may cost Tristan more than he realizes.

YOUNG ADULT

Serpent & Dove

virtual book club
HarperTeen

By Shelby Mahurin
HarperTeen, $18.99
Ages 14+
After fleeing to the city of Cersarine two years ago, Louise le Blanc has done her best to leave her life of magic behind and evade the Chasseurs, who protect the city with their motto: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Witches are feared, hunted and burned. And Chasseur Reid Diggory has believed in that principle his entire life, ever since he was abandoned in one of the city’s dumpsters as a baby. When a misunderstanding puts Lou’s life in jeopardy—and Reid’s (and the Church’s) reputation on the line, the two are forced into the unthinkable: marriage. Lou, coerced to marry a man who would undoubtedly kill her if he discovers she’s a witch and Reid, unhappy that his new wife is a foul-mouthed, common thief (when his heart lies with another), find themselves drawn to each other, especially as they work to untangle the city’s supernatural mysteries. The sequel, Blood & Honey, comes out in September.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky

virtual book club
Simon Pulse

By Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse, $18.99
Age 12+
Pinky Kumar is proud to be a social justice warrior—and she definitely loves to push the envelope with her parents. Her parents definitely don’t agree with all her decisions, especially the boyfriends she’s had, so she asks Samir Jha to be her pretend boyfriend for the summer. Samir is a planner, from taking care of his sick mother to his internship woes, but he’s interested in Pinky’s proposal. And summertime is a perfect setting to turn bickering into sparks.

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