Summer Reading

by Mrs Saint

School has been out for almost a month here. Little Miss and I were sitting out in the front yard the other week and talking to the neighbor’s kids next door. They were working in their garden and I asked them, since our county was going to be moving to the green phase of our reopening plan, if they were going to be able to participate in any of their summer activities (our state has a multi-phased color system for reopening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic).  They let me know that no, sadly they were all canceled. I got to thinking about that. I grew up in a very small, rural community in north-central Pennsylvania. My parent’s house was in the middle of nowhere. It was at least a thirty minute bike ride one way to get to my best friend’s house during summer. We also didn’t have cable tv until I was almost sixteen. So what did I do all summer? I read. I read a lot, even though my school never actually gave us a ‘summer reading list’ to complete during the summer break. 

I know a lot of our friends and family have had their kids home with them since March.  And now it’s looking like their kids won’t get to do a lot of the activities they love so much during the warm summer months, like camps and sporting events or even going to the pool and parks in some areas. How do you get your kids to be interested in summer reading and not just playing Animal Crossing or Fortnight all summer?  Board games, of course! 

There are a few different routes with summer reading and board games you can take with your kids. You can choose to play board games with them that are based on books like The Reckoners, published by Nauvoo Games, based on The Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The books are great  for young people twelve years old or older, who enjoy fantasy and action.  Think Superman goes bad and mere humans have to try to stop him and his evil band of super powered friends. The board game does not have a lot of reading (read our review of the game here) but what I like about The Reckoners is that it’s a fun cooperative game that’s easy to learn and teach, which if your family is new to board games is always a plus. The one downside to The Reckoners game is the price point (see image below for game designer/publisher Brett Sobel’s response to our original review of The Reckoners, where he addresses their decisions when designing/publishing the game that made them choose to go with options that made it a higher price than some other cooperative games on the market). 

Another road you can take with board games and reading is to combine them into a single activity, whereby the game has a lot of reading as part of the play mechanics.  A great game for this is Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger by Z-Man Games, which requires a lot of reading during the game.  As for the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, there are over 180 novels to pick from. This was a series I really enjoyed when I was younger. I always loved the idea of having some control over the direction a story was taking. 

The board game is fairly easy to learn and teach. It doesn’t have a ton of replayability but it has a pretty low price point and it’s one where the story is fairly easy to follow, so you can probably include your younger children in reading and helping with the story decision making. When we played this game the first time, we took turns reading and everyone voted on the decision.  If there was a tie, the reader was the tie breaker and their vote would count as two instead of one. You can play this game solo so if you have a child looking to play a board game and no one is free to play with them then this is a good pick.  Z-Man Games did release a second game for this series – Choose Your Own Adventure: War with the Evil Power Master. We haven’t had a chance to pick that one up yet so I cannot speak to the game play or content of the game at this time. The age range for the books varies but I know I was about eight or nine when I read my first one. There are a lot of universes that have been incorporated into the Choose Your Own Adventure format.  Here’s a link to the Wikipedia article with a full list. 

If you want to try to get your kids into reading classics, there are a lot of classic works that have board games based on them because a lot of ‘classics’ are considered public domain. One of my favorite classic series is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a recent addition to our collection. I love mysteries. I love almost every iteration of Sherlock Holmes, especially the original book series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The universe inspired by his book series is a very large one. If you and your family enjoy mysteries and working out puzzles to solve ‘who did it,’ I highly recommend getting your kids the complete Sherlock Holmes collection and this board game.  Mr. Saint bought me Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures by Asmodee for Valentine’s Day this year. We’ve only had a chance to play it once but I am really excited to get it back to the table. There is reading and strategic thinking involved with the game, so it’s a great one to sit down together and play in the evening. If you’re picking up the stories for your kids, twelve is typically the recommended reading age. 

Up to this point, all our recommendations have been cooperative games. However, if you’re looking for a little family competition and the opportunity to introduce your family to another classic, I suggest the lightweight yet fun Journey to the Center of the Earth, designed by Rüdiger Dorn. The original novel is just short of two-hundred pages and is one that’s often recommended as a good place to start for reading the classics. The minimum suggested age is twelve but Scholastic lists it as suggested reading for grades 9-12. The board game recommended minimum age is 10 years old. The board game is a fun hand management and set collection game, where you will help move the three adventurers through the center of the Earth and back out again. The player with the most points at the end wins. 

My husband and I often talk about, when our little girl grows up, meeting her where she is and engaging with what she loves.  She doesn’t have to enjoy what we enjoy.  Rather, we want her to find her own interests and be interested in those things with her. The other route you can go to get your family around the table and your kiddos interested in reading is exploring what their other hobbies and loves are. The great thing about books and board games is the diversity across both mediums. Does your kid love rap music? Try playing Rap Godz by Board Game Brothas and having them read On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. Does your kid love pirates? Have them read Treasure Island or Hook’s Revenge and try playing Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skulls & Shackles by Paizo or Merchants & Marauders by Z-Man Games. What’s your kid’s favorite show? Do they have a favorite movie genre? Do they love Halloween and spooky things? All of these are great clues to helping you find the right game and reading material to help get through a summer with no camps and possibly no vacation.

There is an entire world of books and games out there waiting for you and your family to explore together. I named just a few in this article but I would love to hear what your favorite book and board game crossovers are. 

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