Summer Reading for Kids Shouldn’t Feel Like Homework! Here’s How to Make it Exciting

June 2, 2023

Summer Reading for Kids

For many children across the country, summer vacation means nearly three months out of school. Instead of sitting in a classroom, children can enjoy the outdoors, catch up on their sleep and have fun with friends and family. Trips to the pool, the beach or museums also could fill the days of summer.

While summer vacation should be a time to have fun, reading should be part of the fun. Children who don’t read during summer are at risk for losing reading gains; this is known as the summer slide. Summer reading for kids shouldn’t feel like homework, but it is essential; use these tips, activities and ideas to get kids excited to read this summer.

Create a Summer Reading Challenge

To heighten excitement around reading this during the long break, create a summer reading challenge. This means the whole family should participate; children look to parents and notice if they model good reading habits. Families can create reading goals related to the number of books read, reading minutes or the number of pages read.

Set a family goal for the summer reading challenge and help children create individual reading goals, too. Keep goals in line with a child’s reading ability; reading goals should be obtainable but not too easy and definitely not incredibly difficult.

Schedule a time before summer vacation or on the first day of summer vacation to discuss the reading challenge and create individual goals. Some children might set a unique goal related to reading a specific number of books in a favorite series or even check off books from a list related to a specific genre. Older children or teens might focus on reading books that received a Pulitzer Prize or authors who were honored with a Nobel Prize.

Summer Reading for Kids

Plan a Visit to the Library

Some families have bookshelves lined with books, but not every household has a variety of books for children to read. The public library can be a great resource for families who want to encourage their child to read but who don’t have access to books at home. The library is a place for all families to explore new titles or to have access to books if they don’t want to purchase the titles.

Joining a local library is easy. However, members need to be a resident of the community (or county). Checking out books and resources is free, but late fees can accrue if children or adults aren’t timely in returning the books they borrow. Also, charges will be assessed for lost or unreturned items.

Children can sign up for their own library card, but parents are responsible for any accrued charges. Children often enjoy exploring the library and looking at all the book options available to them. While parents might want to pick their child’s summer books, it’s important to let children have the power of choice.

Choosing their own books enables children to discover the books that interest them. The freedom of choice also helps children find new favorite authors and explore different subjects.

If children are unsure what they wish to read, encourage them to create an interest list. This is a bit like a shopping list for the library. Children can write down their favorite sports heroes and celebrities, places they wish to visit, hobbies that make them happy, and animals that they find to be cute, cuddly or even scary. Do they want to learn about specific subjects like astronomy or cooking? Every child will have unique interests; parents might be surprised to discover the topics on their child’s interest list.

Consider Joining Summer Reading Programs

Public libraries also offer other fun opportunities for children beyond the shelves of books available for exploration. Many libraries offer summer reading programs designed specifically to encourage children to read frequently during the long break.

Each library system might offer a uniquely structured program. Some libraries design their program to reward children with prizes after they have accrued a specific number of reading minutes, read a certain number of pages or hit a goal related to the number of books read. These reading goals are built into the program to help children feel motivated as they read; at different milestones on a child’s reading program journey, the prizes might become larger or cooler. Some libraries might offer a drawing for prizes, too.

Libraries could offer different programs or activities for children during the summer. Many libraries host storytime events for young children each week. In addition, summer programs could include arts and crafts activities, author visits and more.

Parents should visit the website for their local library to learn about the events and activities planned for the summer. Libraries also should post details about summer reading programs.

Start a Family Book Club

Book clubs can start at home. Encourage everyone to read the same book and set chapter goals each week. Then meetup to discuss the book, make predictions about what might happen next and talk about the characters.

Families should choose books that are leveled appropriately for all family members. Add some excitement to the book club and schedule a movie night to watch the screen adaptation of a favorite book (after the family reads it). Not all books are developed into movies, but the site Imagination Soup offers a list of the best 100 books that have been adapted into movies. The titles are all kid-friendly!

Not all movies will follow the plot of the books. Talk about similarities and differences between the books and the movies. Did kids like the movie better than the book or did they like better than the movie?

Summer Reading for Kids

Read About Summer

Grab a book themed for the summer to read during the long break. Explore the library for books about Independence Day, nonfiction books that let children learn more about favorite beach creatures or even books about the upcoming vacation destination.

If families are planning an overseas vacation, help children find books about the country, its history, key figures in the country and more. 

Don’t Embrace These Bad Habits

Reading during the summer is meant to be a fun adventure. Let children enjoy the books they want to read. Remember to let children choose their titles to help them discover new authors, genres and interesting places and characters, too.

While gentle encouragement to help children remember to read can be helpful to keep them on task, try not to nag. Instead work on ways to encourage the whole family to read and show children the enjoyment of reading.

Summer also is the time children can feel a bit more laid-back. Try not to set a reading timer. If a child is engrossed in a book, let them read. Setting a timer or focusing on those minutes might zap the joy out of the experience.

If children are digging their reading heels into the sand, explore alternative reading materials. All reading is beneficial; if they love comic books, let them read comic books. Some children prefer to read magazines, while others love graphic novels or books of poetry.

This summer, try to let children enjoy their free time and also encourage them to dive into their reading interests. Schedule a trip to the library and start setting reading goals to begin a summer of book adventures.