Build a Better World: Upper Elementary (4th-8th Grade) Children's Summer Reading List

Parklands-Turner LibraryStaff Picks

Build a Better World: Upper Elementary (4th-8th Grade) Children's Summer Reading List

In partnership with National Building Museum

This summer, DC Public Library has teamed up with the National Building Museum to create reading lists that connect our summer reading theme, "Build a Better World", to their mission to advance the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives.

Inspired by the Museum's exhibitions and collections, each book selected complements the stories they tell about architecture, engineering, and design.

Never Stop Singing by Denise Lewis Patrick (fiction)
Melody Ellison just turned ten and she's dreaming of new ways to make her community a better place. When her pastor issues a New Year's challenge, she decides to fix up a neighborhood playground and plant a garden. But when her friends put her in charge, Melody finds out just how hard it can be to lead. From opportunities of a lifetime in Motown to learning what it means to not give up in the face of setbacks and adversity, Melody discovers that working together makes everyone stronger. 

Underground by David Macaulay (nonfiction)
Text and drawings describe the subways, sewers, building foundations, telephone and power systems, columns, cables, pipes, tunnels, and other underground elements of a large modern city. Like other Macaulay books, this one contains amazingly detailed surface views, diagrams, and cutaways allowing the reader to see the foundations of our cities in a new way. 

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Dow Phumiruk (nonfiction)
A biographical sketch of Maya Lin, the Chinese-American artist and designer behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, this book is a good introduction to Lin, covering her early life and her selection to create the memorial. The illustrations by Dow Phumiruk do a lovely job of emphasizes connections between Lin’s concepts and the strong influence of nature on Lin’s art.

Skyscrapers: Who Built That?: An Introduction to Skyscrapers and Their Architects by Didier Cornille (nonfiction)
This book offers elegant overviews of eight towering structures including the Eiffel Tower, Chicago’s John Hancock Center, and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Beginning with a brief biography of each of the men behind the structures, Cornille then highlights the construction, materials, and defining design characteristics of each tower.

How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tonya Bolden (nonfiction)
This book tells the story of how the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall got built, from educators and activists, to politicians, architects, curators, construction workers, and ordinary Americans who donated their cherished belongings to honor black citizens. Archival and contemporary photos and reproductions of artwork and other materials enhance this clearly written, well-documented book.

SeedFolks by Paul Fleischman (fiction)
One by one, a number of people of varying ages and backgrounds transform a trash-filled inner-city into a productive and beautiful garden, and in doing so, the gardeners are themselves transformed.

If you are interested in more books on architecture, design and the built environment, check out these titles:


Visit HIVE in the National Building Museum's Great Hall. Designed by Studio Gang, the installation is part of the annual Summer Block Party series, July 6 - September 4.

DC Public Library will also be offering storytimes and mobile check out at that National Building Museum on Ward Days.
D.C. residents are invited to visit the Museum exhibitions, including Hive, with complimentary admission from 9-11 a.m. on their specific Ward Days.

Find Build a Better World reading lists for adults, teens, and early elementary children.