Need some ideas for keeping kids busy while school is out? Creating a summer reading challenge can help kids beat the summer slide.
As a kid, I loved spending the summer days reading. And as a parent, I’ve spent years nurturing a love of reading in my two kids.
Undertaking a reading summer challenge can be a great way to beat the heat as a family. Not to mention, getting kids to read (or reading to them) can help boost their brainpower.
Ready to launch a summer kids reading challenge?
I’ve got some ideas to help you get kids reading while school is out (and hopefully all year long). Plus, you can snag a free summer reading challenge printable for tracking your kids’ progress!
Why Try a Summer Reading Challenge?
If you’ve been raising school-aged kids any amount of time, you know that the summer slump is real.
Whether you call it the summer slump, summer slide or brain drain, it all means the same thing:
Kids tend to lose some of what they learned during the school year over the summer.
While recent research hints at a smaller learning loss than previous studies suggested, it’s a fact that kids may forget some of what they learned over the summer.
As a homeschooling mom, I’ve seen it myself. I remember having to do a crash course repeat of 4th grade math when my daughter started 5th grade because she couldn’t remember how to multiple or divide.
Summer reading may not help your child remember what 56 x 24 is. But there are numerous benefits associated with reading, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day.
Kids who read 20 minutes a day (or are read to) may:
- Develop bigger vocabularies
- Perform better on standardized tests
- Have improved writing skills
- Be more creative
Those are all great reasons to make time for a kids reading challenge and make it part of your regular summer schedule.
How to Create a Simple Summer Reading Challenge for Kids
There are lots of ways to approach a kids reading challenge. But since I’m a busy mom, I like to keep things simple.
So if you want a simple way to set up a reading challenge for kids over the summer, here’s how you do it.
- Have your kids set a goal for the number of books they want to read
- Create a simple system for keeping track of books as they read them
That’s it! It’s really nothing fancy.
I like this method for challenging kids to read over the summer because they get to decide how high they want to set their goal. And they also get to keep track of how much progress they’re making.
You can tailor this summer reading challenge to your kids’ ages and reading abilities, too.
So, for example, say you have a five-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old.
The five-year-old may want to read 20 books over the summer (or have you read 20 books to them).
The 10-year-old may decide they want to read 10 chapter books. And the 16-year-old might set a goal of reading 50 books.
Because this reading challenge is flexible, you can fit it to your readers rather than trying to force them to reach an impossible goal.
And that’s a good thing for keeping kids interested in reading. Otherwise, they may feel so overwhelmed by the goal that they don’t even try and give up right away.
Summer Reading Challenge Printable
Using a simple reading log to keep track of completed books is a fun way to keep kids motivated.
So to help you out, I’ve created three FREE summer reading challenge printables!
The printables are designed to work for kids of all ages.
You can choose from:
- A summer reading printable tracker for 20 books
- A summer reading printable tracker for 50 books
- Or a summer reading printable tracker for 100 books
Kids can color in one book at a time as they go. This is a simple way for kids to have a visual representation of all they’ve read over the summer!
And if you want to record specific details of each book, be sure to grab your free summer reading log!
Other Summer Reading Challenge Ideas
Looking for more ideas on how to create a reading summer challenge?
Here are some other ways to beat the summer reading slide!
Scholastic Summer Reading Promise
Every year, Scholastic launches a summer reading program for kids. This program is free and it’s designed to get more kids reading!
Kids can create a free Home Base account. With Home Base, kids can:
- Record their reading streak
- Attend weekly author events
- Play book-based games and activities
Best of all, when kids maintain a reading streak Scholastic donates books to Save the Children.
Books A Million Summer Adventure
I love Books A Million and so do my kids. We’ve spent far too much money on books there over the years.
Over the summer, BAM offers a kids reading challenge. This one is super easy too.
This year, kids can read four books and write about their favorite part of the story. Books A Million offers a free printable reading log where kids can jot down their thoughts.
Once they complete the log, kids can turn it in at a BAM store to receive a prize.
Barnes and Noble Summer Reading
Barnes and Noble offers a free summer reading program for kids in grades 1 to 6.
To complete the challenge, kids have to read 8 books then tell what they liked about them in a printable reading journal.
Once they finish their 8 books they can turn in their journal to get a free book!
Local Summer Reading Programs
When my kids were younger, we were regular participants in our library’s summer reading challenge.
It was fun seeing how many books we could read together over the summer, then later, how many they could read on their own.
And the library always made it fun by offering once-a-week meetups with guest speakers. Some of the things my kids got to do through the library summer reading program over the years include meeting wildlife and nature experts, seeing magic shows and building robots.
If you’ve got a library nearby, chances are they offer some kind of summer reading program for kids. You can also contact your local literacy council to see if they offer any details on summer reading programs.
How to Make Summer Reading Fun for Kids
By the time summer rolls around, your kids may be ready to play all day. Or sleep all day if you’ve got growing teens.
So unless your kids are natural bookworms, getting them onboard for a summer reading program might require a little creativity.
Luckily, there are lots of ways to make reading over the summer fun so kids will stay engaged.
For example, creating a cozy reading nook somewhere in your home can make it seem more like fun and less like a chore.
You could also challenge your kids to read in different places.
Instead of reading on the couch, you could suggest reading:
- Outside in a hammock
- In a tent or teepee in the backyard
- Under a shady tree
- In the car, while you’re running errands
- At the beach, if you live near one or are planning a beach vacay
This is a win-win because you can get kids outside and into the fresh air, while encouraging them to read at the same time.
Another reading challenge idea involves mixing up the types of books your kids are reading.
This is a great way to keep reading interesting over the summer if your kids are stuck one type of book or subject.
So, for example, you could challenge them to read:
- A book about science
- A mystery novel
- One or more classic novels
- A biography of a famous historical or scientific figure
- A book of poetry (my kids loved Shel Silverstein)
- A play
And you’re not limited to encouraging kids to read just books either.
You could also challenge them to read print newspapers and magazines, online magazines or age-appropriate blogs.
Mixing up what kids are reading can help them get familiar with different writing styles. And it can build vocabulary as they learn more about the world around them.
Here’s one more idea to keep kids interested in reading over the summer: Watch the movie or TV show that goes along with the book.
I’ve done this with my kids (and still do). We like watching the movie or TV adaptations of books we’ve read, then discussing how they’re the same or different.
And seeing a book play out on screen can really help bring the characters and story to life.
Best Summer Reading Books for Kids
Looking for some ideas for books to read with kids over the summer? Or books that kids can enjoy on their own?
Here are a few of my favorite summer reads for kids!
Summer reading list grades 1-2
- Any of the Mo Willems books (my favorites were the ones featuring Pigeon)
- Ramona the Pest (a childhood favorite of mine)
- Where the Wild Things Are
- Press Here
- All of the Fly Guy books
- Dog Man (and Cat Kid)
- Captain Underpants series
- Charlotte’s Web
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- Flat Stanley
- The Giving Tree
- Stink by Megan McDonald
Summer reading list grades 3-4
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
- The Boxcar Children
- Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
- Flora & Ulysses
- Harry Potter series
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- Little House in the Big Woods
Summer reading list grades 5-6
- Number the Stars
- Wings of Fire series
- A Wrinkle in Time (really, the entire Time Quintet is amazing)
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Hobbit
- Chronicles of Prydain
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- The Penderwicks (this entire series is phenomenal)
- Bridge to Terabithia
- Little Women
- Because of Winn-Dixie
Summer reading list grades 7-8
- Watership Down (and Tales From Watership Down)
- The Giver
- The Book Thief
- The School for Good and Evil
- The Outsiders
- The Maze Runner
- Lord of the Rings
- A Long Walk to Water
- Julie of the Wolves
Summer reading list grades 9-12
- Lord of the Flies
- The Scarlet Letter
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Color Purple
- Of Mice and Men
- The Hunger Games
- The Bluest Eye
- Any novels by Jane Austen
- The Catcher in the Rye
- Flowers for Algernon
- The Great Gatsby
- Things Fall Apart
Bonus: Summer reading list for busy moms
Summer reading challenges aren’t just for kids. Moms can also get in on the action, too.
Looking for some books to read over the summer? Here are some of my favorite books for moms!
- Motherhood by Sheila Heti
- Where the Crawdads Sing
- Gift From the Sea
- Save Me the Plums
- Traveling with Pomegranates (a must for girl moms)
- Mom & Me & Mom
- Breathe Mama Breathe
Pro mom tip: If you don’t want to carry a book with you everywhere you go, try audiobooks instead.
Final thoughts on creating a summer reading challenge for kids
Summertime is all about rest and relaxation but it doesn’t mean reading has to go out the window.
Keeping kids reading over the summer can help with their development and beating the summer slide. And if you’re reading together as a family, you can build stronger connections.
Do you have a great idea for a summer reading challenge? Head to the comments and tell me about it.
And don’t forget to download your free summer reading challenge printables!