Summer Reading Programs for Kids

Summer reading programs for kids are a great way to keep kids interested in reading during non-school months and a fun way for them to discover new books that they may not have read in school. Since the majority of programs are free, they are also a good option for families seeking low-cost entertainment and activities during the summer. Libraries or national reading organizations operate most summer programs, but private and independent programs are easy to start, too.

Start Your Own

If you want to start your own summer reading program for kids, the hardest part may be finding enough kids to participate. It's a good idea to plan how large you want your program to be before you start. That way, you can work on recruiting a target number of kids from your neighborhood or your child's school to take part in the program.

  • Think about how you would like to format your program. If you have only a small number of kids, it might be better to have a book club in which kids pick books to read rather than an organized program with book recommendations.
  • Another idea is to choose one book each month for kids to read together and encourage them to read other books independently.
  • Establishing a theme for your program makes it easier to spread the word about it. "Catch the Reading Bug" is a common name for lots of summer programs that try to get kids interested in reading.
  • Consider extras you could add to your program. Will you have book-review slips for kids to fill out? Recommendation lists? Organized meeting times and dates? Let kids and their parents know about this information ahead of time.

Summer Reading Programs for Kids

Three girls reading.

These established, reputable programs have been around for many summers:

  • The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program is run by the bookstore chain of the same name and encourages elementary school kids to read every summer. As a special incentive, the store offers one free paperback book to each child who has read eight books over the summer and who brought in a completed form to say so. In 2009, Barnes & Noble gave away almost 200,000 free books to kids who participated in the program.
  • Scholastic, the popular publisher of both educational and trade books, runs a summer reading program every year to promote year-round reading. Scholastic notes that kids' reading scores are typically lower near the end of summer than they are at the beginning and attempts to combat the issue by challenging kids to read four or more books during the summer.
  • Many local and regional summer-reading programs exist all over the country, such as the program at the New York Libraries. These programs aim to promote literacy, to get more people into public libraries, and to urge kids to find fun books to read during the summer.
  • The New York program is a small part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, which operates summer reading programs for kids and adults in several states. It also offers a separate program for young adults, which has a goal of encouraging post elementary-school-aged kids to read and discuss a variety of books in the summertime months.
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