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Ready, Set, Read! - Ideas and Resources for Summer Reading

Get It Done

So you want to get your kiddos reading this summer. Does that feel a little bit like wrestling an alligator smothered in Vaseline?

Trying to encourage kids to read over the summer - especially struggling or reluctant readers - can be slippery. Having spent a whole school year cooped up inside, kids often rebel against anything school-related during the summer months. So what's a parent to do?

In my last post I talked about the importance of having your child read over the summer and a couple strategies for implementing that into your sunny days. Today, I want to provide you with some practical resources that will both motivate your kid and keep you sane. :) Because, let's be honest, we all want to enjoy our summer.

Reading Programs with Prizes

Who doesn't like to earn a little freebie in exchange for some hard work? There are a few great places your kids can earn books and other great prizes this summer simply for reading a few books.

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading: Kids in grades 1-6 earn a free book from Barnes and Noble by reading eighth books between May 16th and September 5th. What I love about this program is that it is offered in both English and Spanish! The reward also matches the desired behavior - reading books earns you a book of your own! The downside is that it does not include middle or high school kids.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Known for producing quality reading material for school-aged kids, Scholastic promotes reading over the summer with a challenge all its own. Students log minutes read and earn virtual prizes and badges. Scholastic offers suggested titles for kids from infancy up through young adults. Like B&N, Scholastic's challenge comes in both English and Spanish - a definite plus. You can sign your child up online. The challenge runs from May 8th - September 8th.

Public Libraries:One of the most under-appreciated public resources, many local libraries also offer reading incentive for kids of all ages over the summer. My local library -

- provides gift certificates and free passes to attractions when kids complete the summer reading challenge. For years, we've enjoyed visiting the Strasburg Railroad or getting a free ice cream cone at McDonald's courtesy of the summer reading program. To find a library or reading program near you, click he

Tracking Progress

Once you make the commitment to read over the summer, tracking a child's progress is key. Just like watching the pounds tick down on a scale, tracking the number of books, pages, or minutes read can be highly motivating.

When I started thinking about promoting a summer reading challenge, I figured I'd make my own. As I began researching, I realized there were already a TON of creative, engaging ways to track progress out there, so why reinvent the wheel? (Plus, I'm slightly lazy.)

I chose some of my favorite ways to manually track books read (I say manually because I also have suggestions for online-tracking - that comes next...keep reading). These options offer a variety of ways to keep kids reading, and they cover a wide range of abilities, interests, and grade levels.

A Teachable Teacher: This site provides an alternative to a prescribed reading list, which is SOOOOO important, especially for reluctant readers. In my last post, I talked about the necessity of allowing kids to choose their own reading material. This tracking system focuses on the ways to read a book (all fun!). It also ups a reader's game by challenging her to read different types (or genres) of books. Great for elementary-aged kids.

Pizza Hut Book It!: Did anyone else track their reading with stars that you could stick on a giant pin? No? Just showing my age, I guess.

Anyway, Pizza Hut still offers a reading incentive program but, it is geared to schools and homeschoolers...if you want to get the pizza reward. However, I was really surprised by what the site offers - creative and personalized activities that really make reading come alive! Pizza Hut partners with Candlewick Press and promotes certain books which it pairs with age-appropriate, hands-on activities. So this option is less about checking off activities and more about deeply interacting in one or two books over the summer. But I love the authenticity of the activities and that they include opportunities for personal connection and community engagement.

Modern Mrs. Darcy: Though this site is geared toward grown-ups, I think it is easily adapted to suit kids, especially middle school and high school readers. I love how MMD says, "We love reading, but don’t believe it’s a competitive sport." Lots of other people feel that way too. Maybe putting a competitive spin on a summer reading challenge is too much for your child. If so, then this might be the route to take. MMD offers to types of free downloadable reading checklists: Reading for Fun and Reading for Growth. Both are worthwhile and promise to stretch a reader out of his comfort zone. Please note: In order to download the printables, you do have to sign up on the site - but it is free.

Online Tracking

If you're still with me, hallelujah! I have one final suggestion particularly for older kids. And when I say "older," I'm talking age 13 and above.

There are several ways to track reading progress online, and all of them are free. If you happen to be a teacher, you might want to check out Reading Rewards for your school. It is a paid service, but it looks like an amazingly efficient way to track and monitor student reading progress online. I think this is also a resource parents can utilize for the summer.

I think older kids would dig the autonomy and ease of tracking books online. There are also opportunities to engage in book discussions, post reviews, and receive book recommendations in many of these forums. DISCLAIMER: I am not suggesting that kids go online on their own and sign up for these trackers. I'm a little bit of a freak when it comes to internet safety, so I am whole-heartedly recommending that parents sign their kids up and monitor the use of these sites. In most cases, kids must be 13 or older to be on the site.

Biblionasium: Here kids can read, rate, and review the books they read. Kids can also take the pledge to read 20 minutes a day, share their thoughts about the books they read with other students, and get recommendations for future reads. Very kid-friendly. Some schools may already have a subscription, so check that out first. This is a free site for students, parents, and teachers.

Goodreads: Goodreads is a free social website for book lovers. It allows you to track your own reading material but also lets you take a peek at what everybody else is reading. Again, the interactive nature of this site is it's best feature. Students can post review and recommendations. In addition, they can join discussion groups, start their own book clubs, or connect with a favorite author. Once more, this site is recommended for kids age 13 and up; parents should register and monitor their child's use of the site.

So if you haven't picked up on it yet, I really, really, really want to encourage and equip you to get your kids reading over the summer. Do what you have to do. Bribe. Threaten. Sell your soul. Whatever. Your kids will resist at first, but remember, you're the parent - your kids DO NOT rule the roost; if you model what you're asking them to do AND take some steps to make it fun (and not pressured), your kids will follow your lead. Make reading an integral part of your summer!

Share about all the cool ways you and your family promote reading at Story Trekker on Facebook.

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