Exploring Careers through Summer Reading: Suggestions for Early Childhood (Ages 3-8)

Posted June 3, 2021

When children say, “I’ve heard that book before,” I love to answer: “You’re so lucky to get to hear it again. Good books are worth reading again and again!”

This summer, I encourage you to read to — or with — your preschoolers and early elementary students as much as possible so they can keep expanding their literacy and communications skills. At the same time, I’d like to challenge you to choose some books that introduce concepts about jobs and careers to get them thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. (You’ll know your kids like the titles if they ask you to read them again!) 

It’s never too early to introduce the concepts of work and career to your children, and summer reading is a great way to intentionally work these topics into your family conversations. As a literary specialist and educator of more than 30 years, I’ve personally selected this list of titles for your family’s reading enjoyment this summer.

Community Helpers

Community helpers are a common topic in preschool and kindergarten curriculums. Children love to explore specific careers and see what the tools of the trade encompass. In the series Let’s Meet a … by Bridget Heos and Gina Bellisario, specific careers like dentists, police officers, doctors and veterinarians are explored with fun illustrations. If you’re looking to review a variety of community helpers, I’d recommend starting with Career Day by Tia Palmer and the classic Career Day by Anne Rockwell. Books like these demonstrate the joy of work.  

Community Helpers Book Series
Career Day

For Kids Who Like to Dig Deeper

Inquisitive children who ask “Why?” and like to know what is happening behind the scenes would enjoy Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson, I Have a Restaurant by Ryan Afromsky, and How Does My Home Work? and How Did That Get In My Lunch Box? The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth.

Before We Eat
I Have a Restaurant
How Does My Home Work?
How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?

Inspiring Women

A couple of inspirational biographies about women in science are Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing by Dean Robbins and Mae Jemison by Mary Nhin. 

Margaret and the Moon
Mae Jemison

Books About STEM Careers

Two STEM books I love are Mighty Mommies and Their Amazing Jobs: A STEM Career Book for Kids and My Daddy, the Amazing Nurse by Donald Jacobsen, which introduce many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs. 

Mighty Mommies and Their Amazing Jobs
My Daddy, The Amazing Nurse!

For Kids with a Funny Bone

Kids are naturally creative and love funny concepts. Books such as When I Grow Up by Al Yankovic and Lola Dutch When I Grow Up by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright, plus Ada Twist, ScientistRosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts are humorous and provide a great introduction into what imaginative minds can invent (even if adults think they’re silly!).

When I Grow Up
Lola Dutch When I Grow Up
Ada Twist: Scientist
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Iggy Peck, Architect

It Takes a Village

Working Wizzles of Wizzletown by Michelle Olson, What Do Grown-ups Do All Day by Virginie Morgand and Big Tree Down! by Laurie Lawlor are stick-around-and-read-awhile books with lots of details to show that people work in different environments and that their work can be interrelated with the work of others.

Working Wizzles of Wizzletown
What Grownups Do All Day

For Young Entrepreneurs

Are your kids intrigued by starting their own business through running a lemonade stand? Landon’s Lemonade Stand by Randy Williams and Ethan’s BIG Business Plan by Yu-Ting Hung and Ethan Hsu might plant ideas about how to facilitate young entrepreneurial ideas. 

Landon's Lemonade Stand
Ethan's BIG Business Plan

Guess Who?

A great way to promote independent reading is to introduce interactive books that keep them guessing at bedtime. Check into Whose Tools Are These? and Whose Hat Is This? by Sharon Katz Cooper, and Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook. These titles introduce numerous career vocabulary words.

Whose Tools Are These?
Whose Hat Is This?
Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do

Most all of these books are available on Kindle UnlimitedYouTubeAmazon, your favorite bookstore, or your local library. Whatever titles you choose, please use this summer to expand your child’s vocabulary, practice their reading skills and explore all the possible paths they’ll be able to take someday! 

A native of Manhattan, Kansas, Kaye Hendricks taught kindergarten for more than 33 years and now has two young grandchildren who validate her need to keep lots of books in her house. A graduate of Bethany College (bachelor’s degree in elementary education) and Kansas State University (master’s degree in curriculum and instruction), Mrs. Hendricks volunteers her time reading to children of international students and other children in her community. She believes the illustrations in picture books are just as important as the meaning of the text, and she now works for USD 383’s K-LiNK Literacy grant, finding ways to promote and facilitate literacy materials with community partners and within her district. (Kaye has also written a HirePaths blog about career exploration in books for middle readers.)