Discover 17 refreshing summer reads about water, the beach and swimming recommended by the Brighter Readers Book Crew!
About 71% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered. And the oceans hold about 96.5% of all of that water. Water exists in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers. In the air as water vapor and in the ground as soil moisture. And even in you and your parents, grandparents and pets. Water is everywhere!
Because water is so important to life, this reading list is 100% about water! We asked members of our Brighter Readers Book Crew to share their favorite children’s books about water. Check our list out and share your favorite reads about H2O with us in the comments. Make sure to check out the science activities and conversation prompts after reading these great books too!
Gaia Cornwall, author and illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, school age, read along with preschool and pre-k learners
“‘Jabari Jumps’ shares the sweet story of one little boy’s brave effort to try out the diving board. After completing his swimming lessons and with support from his father and sister, he’s ready to walk on the high board and make a big splash. I adore this book, for the way it helps little ones think about challenges, models supportive family connections, and sets the stage for the importance of being prepared for big milestones.”
After you read: Ask, “What is something you were scared of before that you are not scared of anymore?” and, “what helped you feel less scared?”
CJ Woods, III, is a retired creative director and currently a writer/columnist for The Weekly View community newspaper in Indianapolis. He’s also the father of two girls and one boy — and grandfather of two girls and one boy. He’s been a joyful reader to them all. This is his pick:
Little Fish, Finger Puppet Book
“Little Fish keeps my 13-month-old granddaughter engaged as an interactive event. The finger puppet animates the story, and she stays involved in the process of listening to the reading of the words.”
After you read: Splash together! When your baby is in the bathtub after dinner, let them kick their feet in the water to see how big a splash they can make. Your baby is discovering cause and effect — and even though it’s sometimes a messy process, it’s an essential part of their scientific growth!
Beth Byam is a part-time bookseller at Kids Ink and pre-school assistant at St. Joan of Arc. She’s also an enthusiastic reader and mother of two children.
Sea Shells by the Sea Shore
by Marianne Berkes, author and Robert Noreika, illustrator
Best for: read to or along with pre-school and pre-K
Counting from one to 12, Sue picks up shells — periwinkle, kittens paw, scallop — and carefully adds them to her bucket as a gift for Grandma. She and her friend identify the shells. Then, when they discover one that still has the mollusk living inside they put it back in the water, learning that shells are actually the (usually) abandoned homes of sea animals.
“With beautiful artwork, this simple counting book identifies different shells found on beaches.”
After you read: Ask, “Would you have put the shell with the mollusk back?” and “Why do you think it’s important to be kind to other creatures?”
Spot Goes to the Beach
by Eric Hill, author and illustrator
Best for: two-year-olds,
It’s a sunny day at the beach, and Spot is ready to have some fun and make new friends. Spot loves building sandcastles, but this time he decides to try something new: surfing! Spend a day at the beach along with Spot, his parents and his new friends!
“Bright clear graphics take toddlers to the beach with Spot. Perfect amount of text for toddlers.”
After you read: Play sink or float! Send your kid to collect various items throughout the house. Help them by suggesting items you know will either sink or float. Then, fill a container or the sink with water and ask your little one to predict if the items will sink or float. Ask them, “What makes things sink?” and “Why do some items float?”
Orange Fish, Green Fish
by Linda Kranz, author and illustrator
Orange Fish and Green Fish might be opposites, but when they’re together, they sure have fun! Linda Kranz celebrates our differences with her bright and merry rock fish in this lively book of opposites.
“This board book is a repetitive book of opposites with bright colorful illustrations.” Books with lots of repeating are great for little learners!
After you read: Play “I Spy” with opposites. “I spy a small and a big tree” “I spy a full glass of water and an empty one too.”
Lois Looks for Bob At the Beach
by Nosy Crow, author and Gerry Turley, illustrator
“Lois, a cat, is looking for her friend Bob and meets other animals on the way. The lift-the-flaps show objects commonly found at water’s edge.”
After you read: Go animal watching. Who are the animals living in your neighborhood? Find out with your little learner how many kinds of birds like to spend time in your neighborhood. Do you see any squirrels? Are there any cats that come visit your house? Give them names and then say hi to your neighborhood critters every time you see them.
There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed the Sea
by Pam Adams, author and illustrator
Best for: two-year-olds,
This turducken of the sea story is sure to give children the giggles. An old lady slides into an extraordinary life conundrum after eating a live crab. The situation continues to escalate to the point of swallowing the entire sea. The illustrations give readers an inside look to the old lady’s dinner!
After you read: Have your little one practice fitting things into jars. Find jars of different sizes and practice fitting small, medium and large objects into the jars. Use math words like big and small or more and less. “Let’s add more cotton balls to this little jar,” or “The wooden blocks are too big to fit in the medium jar.”
by Jo Weaver, author and illustrator
Best for: pre-school and pre-K learners, school age kids
Together, Little Whale and Gray Whale swim under midnight skies and through coral reefs teeming with life as they migrate to the cool, rich waters of the north to feed. Gray Whale gently guides her baby along the way, keeping Little Whale safe from passing ships and dangerous predators. At long last, the echo of a whale song calls to them through icy water and they know . . . they are home. With gentle text and stunning monochromatic illustrations, Jo Weaver reveals the wonder of nature, the excitement of discovery, and the strength of parental love.
“With and emphasis on family and belonging, this book tells the story of a young whale and her mother returning to their family.”
After you read: Ask, “Can you think of a time you felt like you missed home?” and “Why do you think it was important for Gray Whale to guide Little Whale home?”
by Randall de Seve, author and Loren Long, Illustrator
Best for: two-year-olds,
A little boy has a toy boat that he made out of a can, a cork, a yellow pencil, and some white cloth. The boy and his boat are inseparable . . . until the day the wind pushes the boat out into the wide lake, and the little boat must face fierce waves, a grumpy ferry, a sassy schooner and a growling speed boat if he is to find his way home.
After you read: Find a camera or use your phone to take photos of your faces making different expressions. What does it look like when we’re grumpy? What is a sassy face? Connecting emotions to the way we express them is a great way to talk about feelings!
Boats on the Bay
by Jeanne Harvey, author and Grady McFerrin, illustrator
A large-format picture book about a bunch of boats found on a busy bay, buoyed by simple, spare, and lyrical text. Inspired by the San Francisco Bay but with universal appeal, the book features a spectacular double-spread gatefold finale showing a boat parade and fireworks glowing against a city backdrop.
“Large and beautiful illustrations introduce the readers to different types of vessels/boats.”
After you read: Make paper boats! Follow these helpful origami instructions or find objects like empty paper cups to make your very own colorful boats.
There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake
by Loren Long, author and illustrator
Best for: three-year-olds,
There’s a log on the bottom of the lake
There’s a log on the bottom of the lake
There’s a log?
There’s a log!
There’s a log on the bottom of the lake.
But it turns out there’s a a whole lot more than just a log on the bottom of this lake!
“An almost sing-a-long tale of a friendly frog who can be found in a lake is fun with large dramatic illustrations.”
The Great Big Water Cycle Adventure
Kay Barnham, author and Maddie Frost, illustrator
Follow the journey of water, from raindrops to rivers and then back to the clouds. Children have lots of questions about the world around them, and this book helps them discover many amazing and wonderful scientific facts about nature.
“Clear, bright illustrations follow two friends who are observing and learning about the water-cycle. Notes for teachers and parents encourage further exploration.”
After you read: Rainy days nowhere in sight? Make your own water cycle! Fill a large bowl a quarter of the way with water and place it outside in the sun. Put an empty mug or cup into the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Tie a string or place a rubber band around the plastic wrap to keep it in place and have your little learner watch the water cycle unfold. If it’s rainy outside, practice some of the words you learned and then play our Brighter Futures Spotify Rainy Day Dance Party playlist!
Picks from the Carmel Clay Public Library:
Dawn Boarman is a youth services librarian from the Carmel Clay Public Library. She is the mother of two children, two cats and one dog, all of whom like to be read to. These are her picks:
One Well: the Story of Water on Earth
by Rochelle Strauss, author and Rosemary Woods, illustrator
Seen from space, our planet looks blue. This is because almost 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered with water. Earth is the only planet with liquid water — and therefore the only planet that can support life. All water is connected. Every raindrop, lake, underground river and glacier is part of a single global well.
Water has the power to change everything — a single splash can sprout a seed, quench a thirst, provide a habitat, generate energy and sustain life. How we treat the water in the well will affect every species on the planet, now and for years to come. One Well shows how every one of us has the power to conserve and protect our global well.
One Well is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.
“This colorful book does a great job of explaining the water cycle and why water is so crucial to people all around the world.”
After you read: Create your own water cycle! Put about two teaspoons of water each in two different dishes. Place one dish in the sunlight or directly under a light source and put the other dish in the shade. Ask your little scientist to check the dishes every four hours and record your observations on paper, exploring how quickly the water evaporates from each one.
All the Water in the World
by George Ella Lyons, author and Katherine Tillotson, illustrator
from each of these
But where does
“Beautiful illustrations and rhythmic text make this book about the water cycle a great read aloud for preschoolers .”
After you read: Kids can learn about water and water conservation and have fun at the same time. Water – Use It Wisely has interactive games and quizzes to teach kids about water conservation.
Holly Southern is a children’s librarian at Carmel Clay Public Library. Her favorite thing to do is help patrons find just the right books! These are her picks:
Water in the Park: A Book about Water and the Times of Day
by Emily Jenkins, author and Stephanie Graegin, illustrator
Best for: preschool and pre-K learners, school age kids
From the first orange glow on the water in the pond, to the last humans and animals running home from an evening rain shower, here is a day-in-the-life of a city park, and the playground within it.
“Follow people and animals throughout a summer day at the park: turtles warming themselves on the rocks, dogs going for a swim in the pond, babies drinking from the water fountain (with help from their mommies), etc. By the end of the book, kids will feel like they’ve spent a fun day the park, ending with a refreshing rainstorm in the evening.”
After you read: A walk in the park can lead to all kinds of games and adventures. Walking can also lead to conversations and sharing. It can also just be a walk! Need ideas for starting conversations with your little one? Check out these ideas.
Mandy Lotarski is a former teacher, and is now the assistant manager of the Children’s and Youth Department at Carmel Clay Public Library. This is her pick:
Otters Under Water
by Jim Arnosky
“This is such a sweet book. The illustrations are lovely watercolors that draw you in to the natural world. You feel as if you are playing right along with the otters.”
After you read: Otters are super cute! Watch this video of a mom and baby otter. Or this one about otters holding hands. There are so many delightful otter videos to explore! After watching them, you and your little reader can recreate otter activities together!
Jennifer Delgadillo is a proud auntie and the content specialist for Early Learning Indiana. This is her pick:
Only One You/Nadie Como Tú (English and Spanish Edition)
by Best for: two-year-olds, preschool and pre-K learners, school age kids
“This is a really sweet story for reminding children that there is no one like them. And that they can do lots of good in the world for that reason. The story is written from the voice of a dad and a mom fish giving advice to their little fish, Adri. The parents give Adri advice on what to do when things get difficult or when experiencing self-doubt. This story was originally written in English only, but this bilingual edition is extra meaningful for children who feel different for having to switch between cultures at home and at school.”
After you read: Tell each other what you like the most about them or what you think is the most special. “There’s only one Tina that dance and skip and make me smile,” or “What I love about you is that you give the best morning hugs.”
Brighter Readers Book Crew is a group of early education professionals, child advocates, parents and book-loving experts that want to share their love of stories and books with families all across the state. Want to share the books you love and why you think they are great? Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Book Crew.
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