How Your Child Can Participate in a Summer Reading Program

Girl reading on her bed

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For children, summer signals the long-awaited freedom from school and learning. But it also means a long break from developing important literacy skills. Enter summer reading programs.

“Reading over the summer not only helps kids academically, but it also connects the experience to recreation and discovery, empowering children to benefit from and enjoy the practice for a lifetime,” says Deimosa Webber-Bey, the director of information services and cultural insight at Scholastic.

Many children like to read during the summer, according to the "Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report." Per the same research, though, there is a 40% and 28% decline in reading over the summer in kids ages 8 and 9, respectively.

"Fun experiences with reading during the summer will emphasize that it is a year-round activity," Webber-Bey says. Summer reading programs are a way to make reading fun and keep kids engaged.

Why Participate In a Summer Reading Program

The first key reason to have your kids participate in a summer reading program is to help them keep their skills up. “Reading over the summer helps prevent 'summer slide' and keeps kids from losing the progress they’ve made with their reading skills during the school year,” says Farouqua Abuzeit, youth services manager at the Boston Public Library.

It also teaches them that reading can be fun, not just something they have to do because their teacher said so. “It is an opportunity for kids to select their own books and read for pleasure and to explore informational texts that are of personal interest,” Abuzeit adds.

A lot of the time, this means they engage with the books more. Webber-Bey says that 89% of kids often find their favorite books are books they chose to read themselves, and 70% of kids who love reading over the summer agree that it's because they can choose the reading material.

“Providing kids ages 5 to 12 with access to a wide range of reading materials by visiting libraries and bookstores, parents modeling how they discover new titles, and kids participating in summer reading programs, allows children to find the characters, stories, and books that they will love for a lifetime," Webber-Bey adds.

Despite the fact that reading is an essentially solo activity, there’s also the social aspect of summer reading programs. “Participating with other people is fun and a way to connect over shared interests,” says Abuzeit. “The same ways that adults enjoy book discussion groups and exploring library programs are ways that kids can make connections and find community.”

Summer Reading Programs for Your Kid to Join

There are plenty of nationwide programs that younger children can participate in, many of them for free! Whether you’re looking to incentivize your kids to read more books, encourage them to learn about new topics, or give them a chance to talk about books and reading with their peers and their community, we’ve rounded up some of the best programs for you.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Journal

The Barnes & Noble summer reading program asks children in grades one through six to read any eight books between July 1 and August 31. They then record them in their journal, adding their favorite part about the book and why. Once complete, you bring the completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store in exchange for a free book from the predetermined list.

Scholastic Summer Reading Home Base

The virtual Scholastic Summer Reading Home Base program gives children the chance to read books and participate in activities with children across the country. The free program is moderated by Scholastic Home Base. Kids can join a community of readers, attend author events virtually, and discover new books. Their participation can even help support a donation of 100,000 books by Save the Children, a nonprofit, to kids in rural America.

Children also have the ability to earn trophies, virtual items, and in-game tokens as they read, making the experience into a game to keep them engaged.

Reading Is Fundamental Summer Reading Road Trip

Your kids can join the literacy nonprofit Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) on a six-week summer reading road trip across the country. Each week your child will visit a different state by reading one or more books about or related to that state. RIF offers book recommendations for each destination, plus a downloadable bingo card and road trip map that will help them track their progress.

Many of the recommended books are available through Skybrary, RIF’s digital ebook service. You can start a one-month free trial and then get 20% off for summer, reducing the $4.99 monthly or $39.99 annual subscription that provides access to over 1,000 ebooks.

Public Library Programs

Local public libraries almost all run summer reading programs for children in the community, complete with activities, incentives, storytimes, and more. Many use the resources provided by the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), which offers tools and programming for local librarians. Check your local library’s website for more information on the program available in your community.

Books-A-Million Summer Reading Adventure

Similar to the Barnes & Noble program, the BAM! Summer Reading Adventure hosted by Books-A-Million (BAM!) asks children to read four books from the Summer Reading Adventure section in stores or on their website. Kids keep record of the books they've read in a printable logbook along with their favorite character and favorite part of the story. Then if you bring the completed logbook to a BAM! Store, you can receive a free bookmark and pencil pouch.

Camp BOOK IT!

Created by Pizza Hut, Camp BOOK IT! is an online program for kids in pre-K through sixth grade utilizes a digital dashboard in which parents can set monthly reading goals and track their children’s progress. When they reach their monthly goals they will receive a gift certificate for a free one-topping personal pizza from Pizza Hut.

Showcase Cinemas Bookworm Wednesdays

For kids who adore watching TV and movies, this program from Showcase Cinemas may just the ticket to getting them addicted to reading as well. If they read a book, complete an Official Book Report Entry Form (which includes the title and author of the book and a brief description of the story), and bring it to a Showcase Cinema, Multiplex Cinema, or Cinema de Lux on a Wednesday in July, they are rewarded with free admission to a movie. As a bonus, parents or guardians and children under six who accompany the reader receive free admission, too!

How to Create Your Own Summer Reading Program

For parents who would rather make summer reading a more personal or family-centric endeavor, there are plenty of ways to do so.

“Families can select books to read aloud together, regardless of whether the children can read independently,” suggests Abuzeit. “Setting a goal of reading a certain number of books in a series, having family members each have a turn in selecting titles that will be read aloud, and having family members report out on the books they are reading on their own can be great ways to maximize summer reading enjoyment.”

If you are planning a summer road trip, select an audiobook or audiobooks to listen to in the car. “Selecting a theme that ties into the family’s summer plans can give some structure to the summer,” adds Abuzeit. “Reading nonfiction books about gardening, collecting seashells, getting a new puppy, or traveling allows kids to see the value of reading for information.”

For parents who want to set reading goals for their kids to work towards, Abuzeit suggests sharing titles on social media, keeping track with a list, or using an app like Beanstack to track reading time and compile a list of completed books.

A Word From Verywell

Seeking out a summer reading program for your child to participate in can be educational, rewarding, and fun. Indeed, the goal of any summer reading program is to get kids excited about the opportunities and worlds that exist in the pages of books. The program that does that the best for you, whether it's one you create or one you participate in, is the one that will be right for you.

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  1. Scholastic. Scholastic kids and family reading report: 7th edition,