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Kid-reviewed and approved Sunshine State books

Sometimes the hardest part of reading is choosing what you hope will be a great book. The Florida Association for Media in Education gives parents and students a jumpstart by publishing an annual list of books sure to be a hit with kids. And this time of year is perfect for choosing a few reads from the list.

The Sunshine State Young Readers Award Program is made for students in grades 3 through 8, with the goal of encouraging students to read for pleasure and to read books that are on, above, and below their reading level in order to improve reading fluency.

“Sunshine State books are selected for their wide appeal, literary value, varied genres, curriculum connections, and/or multicultural representation,” the FAME website states. “The SSYRA committee is comprised of 20 qualified school librarians located throughout the state of Florida, subdivided into two committees: grades 3-5 and grades 6-8.” (For parents of younger readers, see the list of SSYRA Junior winners here.)

According to Scholastic, 89 percent of kids agree: “My favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.”

Danielle Williams, a fourth-grade teacher at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee, asked her students to tell us which Sunshine State book on the 2021-2022 list was their favorite this year and why.

  • Ian D. selected “From the Desk of Zoe Washington” by Janae Marks. “It is packed with adventure, from writing secret letters to trying to find a forgotten witness,” Ian wrote. “This is definitely a ‘must-read’ for the summer, in my opinion.”
  • Student Will S. is recommending “The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez” by Adrianna Cuevas. “This book was great because it was interesting that the main character could talk to animals. I literally couldn’t put it down!”
  • Payton C. and Elizabeth F. both endorse “Wish Upon a Sleepover” by Suzanne Selfors. “It is one of the best books because it shows how you can be friends with anyone in the whole world!” they wrote. “It also shows that no matter how someone dresses or looks they can be amazing. This is a book that should be on your summer reading list.”

Reviews like these are exactly what parents and teachers love to see.

“It is a teacher’s dream to see students reading books,” Williams said. “Reading is so important because it helps students to build their vocabulary, strengthen their knowledge, learn important lessons, and overall build mental strength and imagination.”

The grades 3-5 and 6-8 lists of Sunshine State books each include about 15 selections, with a cover photo and brief synopsis of each entry. And if your child has already read this year’s books, there are plenty of amazing books that have made the list in years past, or you can let them get ahead on the now-published 2022-2023 list (available here).

Happy summer reading!

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