How to Plan a Simple but Challenging Summer Reading Program for Kids

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I have a pet peeve when it comes to kids and reading: timing multiple children reading is a pain in the patootie.  For school, I mostly let the older boys time themselves, with minimal supervision from me, but honestly, it sucks some of the joy out of reading for them.  My boys are all solid readers, so I know they read more than they’re required for school.  We guestimate the best we can and call it a day.

Our local library does have a reading program, which is also based on reading time, and we always participate in it, but I wanted to challenge them in some different ways this year.

In planning it, I realized it would take a delicate balance of still encouraging them to read for pleasure, but also pushing them to read new and different things.  I’m the judge and jury of this reading program, so if there are any squabbles, my word is final.

Here’s my plan: they will earn points for the number of pages read.  That way, they can just read to enjoy themselves, and at the end, total up the number of pages read.  All the books have to be age-appropriate, so the big boys won’t be able to read dozens of picture books (although they can earn points by reading to their non-reading brother).

My two big boys have both read Harry Potter, (the fourth-grader, the entire series, and the second-grader, books 1-4) so I feel like they are equally capable of whatever chapter books they want to read.  Here’s what I’m trying to get away from one boy reads the same books over and over–I want to encourage him to read new things.  Another boy loves video games, and likes to read books pertaining to video games.  While reading is reading, I want to encourage non-video game-related books.  I’m trying to sneak a little math into the point calculation too (shhh, don’t tell them).

  • Chapter books 50 pages=5 points.
  • A new book you’ve never read before=double points
  • books about video games=1/2 points
  • reading to your brother=5 points per 25 pages
  • audio books=75 minutes=5 points
  • 5 bonus points for a book with a girl as the main character
  • 5 bonus points for a fiction book about a historical event
  • 5 bonus points for a book that won an award
  • 5 bonus points for a book about Peter Pan
  • 5 bonus points for a book with non-human characters
  • 5 bonus points for a book published this year
  • 5 bonus points for a book published at least 100 years ago
  • 5 bonus points for a book set somewhere outside of the US
  • 5 bonus points for a nonfiction book
  • 200 points for:
  • afternoon at the pool
  • 1 round of bowling
  • bikes at the park
  • 1 small ice cream
  • $1 movie

I had initially thought I might make the rewards really big–something to work towards earning all summer long, but eventually came to the conclusion that smaller, more immediate rewards would be more gratifying, especially for the younger guys.

You can certainly make your rewards more exciting than I did, but I liked the idea of starting out small–it’s easier to add bigger rewards later, rather than be overwhelmed in the beginning.  Since a lot of the rewards are group activities, I decided that two boys must cash in their points for the same reward–the rest of us get to go along for ‘free’.

My whole goal is to get my boys to read a wide variety of good books, without the annoyance of watching the clock as they read.  Our plan may require some tweaking as the summer goes on, but I’m hopeful it will allow them to be in charge of their book choices and point calculation while getting us out of the house for some fun activities at the same time.

How do you encourage your kids to read?  Share your ideas in the comments!

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