Summer Reading at Our House + Free Printables! – Here’s how we do our own “summer reading program” for fun, plus some free printables to help you track reading and earn prizes!
I’ve always been a book lover.
As an introvert, it’s a great way to escape, do something quiet, and re-energize myself. I love learning about everything–history, art, science, life stories, health, self-help, biographies, short stories, poetry–you name it. I read in bed just about every night as a kid, and loved curling up with as many books as I could get my hands on during the summer breaks from school.
Books were a constant friend through lots of moves growing up (we moved every 2-3 years on average), and I always found comfort in a good story, fiction or nonfiction. In fact, “Author” and “Illustrator” were always at the top of my list for dream jobs as a child. It’s kind of funny to me now that I write and get to create art (photos, food styling, videos) for a living. (It’s not official author status, but hopefully that’ll come some day down the road.)
We have a natural reading culture at home. It’s not something we’ve done with a lot of structure–we just love books! As a mom of tiny kids, I’d read to wind everyone down for naps, quiet time, or sleep, and I’d use books to get me through long witching hours without Michael home. I still read books to them the last few minutes before we brush teeth and hop in bed, then each child can read in bed for a while before we turn out the lights.
My kids both love a good book, whether it’s a fun picture book with great illustrations, an audiobook with a great narrator, or a read-aloud chapter book we cozy up to at the end of the day.
With summer on the horizon, I always love looking for ways to make reading part of our regular routine. In part, because I know how great books are for growing minds. In part, because this mama needs some quiet time built into the fighting and chaos that summer days bring. And, in part, because it’s something fun to look forward to.
Here’s how we approach summer reading at our house…
How Summer Reading Works at Our House
For the last few years, we’ve had a “prize” system. In essence, the kids could earn “points” (tickets, pom-poms, or check-marks on a paper) by reading and then trade them for prizes. Here are the basic ground rules:
- IT’S OPTIONAL & IT’S FOR FUN. I’m not forcing people to read. It’s their choice. I always want reading to feel like a FUN, rewarding thing to do. If Milo isn’t feeling it one afternoon? No problem. He could go play instead. He just also wouldn’t accumulate “points” for that day.
- I MAKE IT LARGELY HANDS-OFF. This isn’t something I’m monitoring like crazy with a stopwatch or keeping extra strict track of. My kids haven’t tried to be sneaky with me yet about reading, so we haven’t had to employ extra monitoring strategies yet.
- I DON’T OFFER ANY PRIZES I WOULDN’T BE HAPPY TO DO ANYWAY. The “prizes” are honestly stuff we’d probably get to even without the official system. (See the section below for our prize ideas.)
- I ADAPT IT FOR DIFFERENT AGES & ABILITIES. This will be the first summer Milo can actually read to himself or read out loud to me. Last summer, I’d read to him, or I might ask him to find letters on a page or help me sound out words in the BOB books.
- IT WORKS FOR TIME OR BOOKS READ. Last summer, Milo could pass off books read (with me). Sophie (who could tell time) would go by minutes read, since she often worked on chapter books. You do you!
How We Earn Points & Track Points
My kids earn points for all kinds of reading–when I read to them, when they read on their own, when we listen to an audiobook in the car–whatever! As for tracking points, we’ve played around with all kinds of options for tracking reading, from paper tickets, to putting pom-poms in a jar (great visual!), to checking off boxes or circles on a reading sheet. It ALL works. Do what works for you!
- COUNT BY TIME READ – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. Cross off a box, earn a ticket, or put a pom-pom in the jar, based on the unit you choose. (Last year, I did 5 minutes for Milo and 10 minutes for Sophie)
- OR, COUNT BY BOOKS OR CHAPTERS READ – Earn points per chapter, per picture book, etc. This is great if you’ve got younger readers or picture book readers, as it’s much easier to keep track of and doesn’t involve telling time. For older readers, tracking chapters read can work well.
- THEN, EARN A PRIZE! Then, you can make the prizes “cost” whatever value you want. I try to make prizes fairly easy to achieve (about 1 a week, on average). I want this to be reinforcing and rewarding all summer long. If your child is struggling to read, set the goal at a more attainable pace. If they’re a voracious reader, you can make it more challenging.
I’ve made a printable tracking sheet you can use for counting. Draw a little star or smiley face on the circle you’ll use to mark a prize, then your child can read that many books or for that amount of time to see how close they are to a prize.
Experience Prize Ideas for Summer Reading
As for what the prizes are, last year we switched to experience, activity, and privilege rewards. We all liked it so much better! You can get a free printable of this prize chart HERE Here are a few of the ideas we came up with:
- Let’s Cook Something Together!
- 1-Hour Date with Mom or Dad
- 20 Minutes of Screen Time
- Stay in Your Jammies All Day Long
- Choose a Favorite Snack to Share from the Grocery Store (or Instacart!)
- Pick Something from the Dollar Spot or Dollar Store
- Go Out for a Treat
- No Chores for a Day
- You Get to Choose What We Eat for Dinner
- Stay Up 15 Minutes Later
- Choose a New Book to Buy (You can set a $ limit as needed)
- Pick the Games for a Game Night
- Choose a Box of Your Favorite Cereal
- Go to a Park of Your Choice
- Take an Extra Long Bubble Bath
- Choose the Movie for Movie Night
Ways to Encourage Summer Reading
TRY SETTING ASIDE A LITTLE QUIET TIME. I set aside a little bit of time for “quiet time” every day (usually right after lunch) and kids can choose to read for quiet time if they want. Or, they can play quietly elsewhere. Their reading could be listening to an audiobook, reading by themselves, having me read with them or to them, etc.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOOK! Don’t be afraid to get creative! Besides regular picture and chapter books, you can also try things like….
- Try audiobooks. Many libraries have free digital audiobook checkout available through programs like Overdrive, Libby, Freading, Hoopla, etc. There are also places like Audible where you can get your own copies, which can be great for road trips or when the wait lists are long at the library. (Get 2 FREE BOOKS when you sign up for a 30-Day Trial!)
- Read Chapter Books Out Loud While They’re Busy. Sometimes, kids prefer to play, do puzzles, build with Legos, play play-dough, or paint while you read to them. Summer’s a great time to try an easy chapter book!
- Book Packs. Some libraries have book packs that come with a picture book and an audio recording that your child can play as they flip through the book.
- Graphic Novels & Comic Books. All reading counts at our house! Sophie and Milo have loved reading through anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes comics, and Sophie’s loved this Jedi Academy series that’s got a combination of a regular novel and some comics/graphics sections. If your child is past picture books but not feeling a chapter book, graphic novels can be a great place to start.
MAKE IT NATURALLY REWARDING. My mom used to let us stay up “30 minutes later” to read growing up. (Actually, she just put us in bed 30 minutes before she actually wanted us to go to sleep. We felt like we were getting a sneaky reward. Win-win!)
DO IT TOGETHER (SPEAK THOSE LOVE LANGUAGES!). Sometimes, especially if quality time, physical touch, or acts of service are your child’s love languages, reading together snuggled up can be a great way to connect. (Also: Gifts = buy a new book, book light, bookmark, etc. Words of affirmation = “I love getting to read with you.” “I love seeing/hearing you read.” “Wow! I can tell how hard you’ve been working on reading!” “I love the voices you do when you’re reading.” etc.)
FEEL FREE TO BREAK IT UP THROUGHOUT THE DAY. You don’t have to read for long hours in a single stretch for it to matter. If you read just 10 minutes a day, that’s over 60 hours a year. If you read 30 minutes a day, you’re already up to over 180 hours a year. You could do 10 minutes of an audiobook in the car on your way to swim lessons and 10 minutes of books in the evening before bed. It adds up fast!
What Would You Add? Have any questions? I’d love to hear them! (Don’t forget your free printables!
Get the TRACKING SHEET + PRIZE COUPONS)
PS – Looking for some books to get you started? You might like:
- 15 Books for Kids with Character
- Books For Kids Who Love Things That Go!
- 15 Picture Books Your Whole Family Will Love
- Books to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen