Keep Summer Learning Going With a Family Reading Challenge

Keep Summer Learning Going With a Family Reading Challenge

We have been talking about keeping learning going over the summer and practicing skills to keep them sharp. Last week, we talked about how reading is one of the best ways to do this. Today, we are revisiting a post from last summer with a neat way to keep kids reading all summer: a family reading challenge!

There are a lot of different summer reading programs both at local libraries and nationwide (check out this list) that offer incentives for kids to read. You can also start you own, homegrown summer reading program and make it a family challenge by following these steps:

  • Make reading a fun challenge. If kids see reading as “summer homework”, they are likely to drag their heels. And that sets you up to nag them to get it done. No fun for anyone! Instead, set up a challenge to see how many books your child can read. That might sound something like: “I think it would be super fun to see how many books you can read this summer. How many do you think you can read? Wow! Let’s keep track and see how far you get.” Then track the number of books your child reads, maybe by using a chart where they can add stars every time that they read a book. Or you could list out the number of books they think they can read and they can cross off a number every time they finish a book.

For some readers, like older readers or children who are struggling, it may be more rewarding to track how many minutes they read per day. Because it can take some children longer to finish a whole book, tracking minutes may allow them to see more progress every day and help them to feel more successful. Also, since books aren’t the only thing kids can read, this can be a good way to track ALL reading.

  • Read more than books. Your child doesn’t have to read books in order to practice reading. Magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, and even audiobooks count! It’s the skill that we want to practice and children can read lots of different things to keep that skill going. Starting with shorter things, like magazine articles, can also help ease reluctant readers into books.
  • Set up incentives for reading. Whether you track number of books or minutes spent reading per day, make sure to reward your child for reading. These don’t have to be expensive or be rewards. In fact, you could use free incentives such as allowing your child to earn time when you read to her, time on the computer, the chance to pick a movie for family movie night or the main dish for family dinner, time to play Legos (or any favorite game) with you, or a fun outside activity. There are all sorts of possibilities! And since you want the rewards to be motivating for your child, ask her what she’d like to earn. 

Space out the rewards so that they help keep your child motivated. Maybe he has a chance to earn a smaller reward, like picking a movie for family movie night at home, every week. Then at the end of the summer, if he meets his reading goal, he could earn a bigger reward, like a movie night out with the family. Again, rewards don’t have to be expensive or big. They just need to be motivating to your child.

  • Take your child to library to pick out books (and other media) for the challenge. Going to the library can be a great family activity. It also gives you the chance to see what your child is reading and guide some of the choices. Remember that you want your child to read materials that are on his level or slightly challenging. You can use the five finger rule to help determine if a book might be too hard. Your child can also explore other types of print materials like magazines and graphic novels. Those can all count towards his reading goals.
  • Join your child in the challenge! I know that we say this a lot: one of the best ways to get your child to read is to let him see YOU reading. So set a summer reading goal for yourself and see what you can accomplish! Talk to your child about what you are reading and how you are doing at meeting your goal. And don’t forget to reward yourself as well!

A summer reading program does not have to be difficult to set up. But it should be fun! It can also be great time to spend time with your child, talking about what both of you have read and want to read. So while you are out enjoying the sun, take along a book (or two)!

Image: © Georgerudy |

Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.


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