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  • Writer's pictureB. E. Padgett

Summer Reading Success: Tips, Stories, and Resources for an Enjoyable Experience

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

When I was a kid, I loved summer reading time! Most years, my mom would take me and my siblings to the library to sign up. With a whirl of energy, six busy kids rushed the librarian, grabbed a tracking sheet and checked out books.

One year, I set my own goal to READ 100 BOOKS! This was not the best idea. You can imagine how overwhelmed I was by the end of summer. It was so stressful.

As I got to be a little older, I realized it didn’t matter “how many” books I read only that I read consistently throughout the summer. Allowing myself to choose a few bigger chapter books made the experience more enjoyable.

If you are planning on summer reading challenges with your kids, here are some great tips and reminders that I collected.

A infographic that summarizes the information in the blog.
Summer Reading Tips and Tricks

Let them read what they are interested in.

I took my niece to the library to look for books about cats. The non-fiction section had an encyclopedia about cats for kids, but when I recommended it to her--boy did she make a face!

She grabbed the adult one. I realized she didn’t want condensed information about cats. No, she wanted all the cat facts. Her level of engagement depended on much how in-depth knowledge she could access.

Action: Browse the shelves with your kid. Watch and listen. Your kid will naturally touch, look, and pull books of interest. Ask them why they picked that book and listen to their answers to help navigate them to similar material.

Allow them a mix of challenge and comfort reads.

Reading was a battle for me. I often fought the courage to try challenge reads because I didn’t feel confident in my reading skills. Challenge reads often gave me anxiety around reading and removed the enjoyment I got from the experience. When I was allowed to mix comfort reads and challenge reads, the pressure eased. Finally, I could get pleasure from a story without the stress.

Comfort reads: Includes lower reading levels, books they’d read to a younger sibling, rereading of favorite books, familiar authors or formats, and book genres they have previously loved.

Challenge reads: At reading level expectations or above, usually school recommended. Provide support by reading together, being open to questions and allowing more time to read.

Evaluate options for tracking success!

Again, this was a mistake I learned from my own experience of writing down 100 books to read in a summer. I would have loved an adult to talk me through other options for evaluating my success in a summer reading program. Now there are so many options out there including coloring charts, book bingo, reading maps, and more. Depending on the kid and their reading level it’s important to look for what is right for them. Check out the resources below for some ideas.

Reading comes in various forms.

Reading is about engaging in literary language in whatever method is available and accessible for you. Being flexible with what “counts” as reading for a summer challenge can make the goals more achievable for young readers.

  • Audiobooks are reading - Many people benefit from using audiobooks whether they are utilizing them as an assistive tool or just because they prefer it.

  • Reading to someone is reading – One of my greatest joys is reading to my nieces and nephews.

  • Being read to is reading – I loved it when my parents read to me. I call this the original audiobook!

And there is more: graphic novels, comics, etc. I love engaging kids in reading time by giving them choices to mix it up!

Tip: Let your early reader self-guide through a book by pointing out words they know or identifying the book illustrations.

Check out library programs and prizes.

Many libraries have great resources for summer reading. Some programs go all the way up to high school. Often, they may have prizes or events to celebrate summer reading such as video game days, ice cream or even a free book. What great incentives to complete! Just ask your local librarian.

Why not participate with them?

Leading by example is a great tool for teaching kids. I personally love doing reading challenges as an adult. You can choose to pick your own titles or finish that book that you’ve been wanting to read. You can also read with or what your kids are reading. Reading with your kids can open great discussion and bonding time. Maybe even give yourselves a summer book club name.

Last Notes

Summer reading programs can be a lot of work and a lot of fun. Balancing what works for you and your kids is the most important. My parents had six kids and our schedules through the summer were packed! I’m not sure how my mom had time to take me and my bags of books back and forth to the library. I was always grateful for lenient borrowing policies.

As a kid, being part of a summer reading program really helped me keep my reading skills up in the months before school started again but most importantly--it was fun. Keep it fun!

I’d love to hear your stories around summer reading programs, tips, tricks, and lessons learned. If you want to share, feel free to contact me.

Some fun summer reading resources:

  • “Reading Bingo” by grade – Free downloadable resource by Imagination Soup.

  • Virtual Reading Challenge Tracker – Beanstalk is an app that tracks your reading challenges. You can register as an individual or as a family. If your local library is already using this service, you just need your library card.

  • Coloring Reading Logs – This blogger This Reading Mama has some awesome free downloads of color pages.

  • Reading Map – My local library system Sno-Isle provides cute reading maps that track 20 minute reading increments. This is a PDF document.


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