Summer Reading Made Fun


Kids who do not engage in summer learning activities will experience some learning loss during the summer months. The findings are intuitive; anytime you stop practicing a skill for several months, there will be some catching up when you pick up the skill again. Usually with summer’s arrival, kids and parents are happy to leave learning in the classroom and focus on fun for a while. Whether summer is a carefree time filled with relaxation or a heavily scheduled season packed with camps and activities, all families would be wise to incorporate some structured learning into their summer plans.

Structured summer learning doesn’t have to be boring and can take shape in a variety of ways to meet the needs and interests of different learning methods. For keeping reading skills sharp in the summer, there are local and national reading incentive programs that can make reading fun and draw in reluctant readers. If the thought of signing up or visiting a location for a program is daunting, there are other ways to keep reading fun and on the forefront at home.  If you or your child have a difficult time choosing books, many publishers and libraries provide recommended summer reading lists for every reading level. No matter which route you take, remember to set goals for your child and celebrate accomplishments, regardless of their age.

Suggestions for summer reading at home:

-Listen to audiobooks during road trips. Most local public libraries offer a large selection of audiobooks that the whole family can enjoy. Everything from classics to contemporary, these can help pass the time and offer distraction from the siren call of electronics. Also, iTunes has a large inventory of audiobooks available for download, at a cost.

-Hold family book groups. Have each family member take a turn in making a book selection for the family to read and discuss.  If you have a variety of reading levels in the home, you may consider pairing up to make reading selections relevant.

-Set up your own household summer reading program. Parents know best what will motivate their own children. Challenge your child to come up with a name, theme and logo.  It can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like, with your own timeframe and rules.  Just make sure to follow through and encourage your young readers.

-Read the book and then watch the movie.  Many books have been adapted for the big screen, it’s tempting for all ages to skip the book and fast forward to the movie.  For early readers on to YA Fiction, incent and reward your child with a book movie party after they’ve read the book first. Then, hold a critic’s review and discuss the differences and similarities, likes and dislikes.

-Book swap with friends. Get together with friends and have informal book swaps where kids can borrow books from each other. No matter what librarian, parent, teacher or website recommends, peers can be the best source of good reads.

-Incorporate geography. Print out a map of the world and ask your child to pin countries and states where the characters in the books live or visit. This can be a fun way to initiate interest in different locations around the world. Also, readers may gain satisfaction in keeping track of all the different cities they have virtually traveled to through their reading.

-Set goals, keep a rough tally, and make it fun. Reading shouldn’t be a chore, and the habits that young readers develop now can benefit them into adulthood. While many schools do require summer reading as part of their curriculum, also allow children to choose books based on their own interests as much as possible.


Local and national reading programs:

Local Public Libraries

Summer library reading programs began in the late 1800s as a way to encourage non-working school children to read during summer vacation. Today, library reading programs are the public’s most popular choice for summer reading programs. Commit to visit the library once a week during the summer and let your child take their time browsing and selecting books. It’s free, air-conditioned, and the books are always changing, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

The New York Times Summer Reading Contest (

Every Friday from June 13- August 19, anyone 13 to 19 years old can visit the website and answer the question: “What interested you the most in The Times this week?” Winners will be chosen every Tuesday and published on The Learning Network blog. No subscription is necessary to access The Learning Network posts and any linked NY Times articles. Visit the website for more details and rules.

American Girl Publishing (

American Girl is sponsoring a “Read-a-palooza” from May 1-August 26. During Read-a-palooza, $1 of every book purchased through American Girl will go to Save the Children’s U.S. Literacy Program. American Girl is hosting in store events as well as providing reading resources and printables online to support their summer reading initiative.

Barnes and Noble (

“Imagination’s Destination” Read any 8 books and record them in the Barnes and Noble Reading Journal (visit store or website to download). Then bring the completed Reading Journal to a B&N Store and select a free book available on the Reading Journal list. More summer reading resources are available on the B&N site.

Scholastic (

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free online program that runs from May 5 – September 5. The theme is “Reading Under the Stars”, and for added fun, Scholastic is trying to break the minutes read world record for summer. Readers can read, log minutes, take weekly challenges and earn rewards.

TD Bank ( )

Kids in grades K-5 can participate in TD Bank’s Summer Reading Program June 1-August 31.  Kids who read 10 books and log them on the Summer Reading Form (found on website) can take the form to a TD Bank and receive $10 in a new or existing Young Saver account.

Pottery Barn Kids (

From now until August 26, read all of the award winning books on one of PBK’s recommended lists. Track your progress and once complete, bring your certification of completion to a PBK store to receive a free book and enter for a chance to win a backpack full of books. Visit the website for more details and resources.


Resources for Summer Reading Lists

-Association for Library Service to Children 2014 Summer Reading List (

-Penguin Group Summer Reading Kindergarten through Fifth Grade ( Editor’s Picks for Summer Reading (

-Random House Summer Reading Brochure (


(A modified version of this article was written by The Children’s Blog for The Charlotte Observer and was published on May 21, 2014.)

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