Get Set for Summer Reading!

Last summer I decided, "We do a lot of reading anyway. Why don't we join some summer reading programs and get the rewards?" I asked Junior at the end of the summer if it had been worth it. Mouth full of free Chipotle burrito, he nodded an enthusiastic yes!

 "Build a Better World" is the theme for many summer 2017 public library reading programs. I love   this logo, from the Townsend, MA public library's program  , because it reminds me of the Schoolhouse Rock! graphics.

"Build a Better World" is the theme for many summer 2017 public library reading programs. I love this logo, from the Townsend, MA public library's program, because it reminds me of the Schoolhouse Rock! graphics.

I looked online to see what reading programs for elementary schoolers were available in our area. Let me tell you--summer reading programs go waaaayyyy beyond what your local library has to offer. In our area, a family can join reading programs offered by

Your area might have different programs--check here. And I'm not knocking local library summer reading programs either. We got restaurant gift certificates and my niece in another city got NBA game tickets for her entire family. This year, New York Public Library summer reading participants can win tickets to a Yankees game.

Why bother with formally signing up for a summer reading program when there's so much else going on with camp, sports, and travel? Summer reading is important because it prevents "summer slide."

 Your children can participate in a summer reading program even if your family is stationed overseas.

Your children can participate in a summer reading program even if your family is stationed overseas.

The great thing about summer reading is freedom to read anything, unbound by time or class assignments. Graphic novels? Technical video game guides? Trashy series horror novels? Go nuts, kid--and get the credits. Consistent reading--just by itself--will keep your reader at the proper class level. For maximum effect, role model! Your child should see you happily working your way through a stack of pure pleasure reading (check out this list from the New York Public Library for ideas).

If you don't know what to read, most libraries provide a list of titles popular with different age groups. I am truly sorry if your family is grappling with a mandatory summer reading list. I can't think of a better way to turn off a hesitant reader.

What did we have to do to get the rewards?

Note that I'm saying "we" because my son was a beginning reader and writer last year. He needed my help to read the books and to write in the logs. This year, he'll need less help from me. YMMV due to your child's reading level and stamina.

We logged our reading into a website and various paper logs. Chuck E Cheese's program just wanted us to log reading time for 10 days. TD Bank's program wanted us to log ten books we had read. What did we get?

  • a party, candy, and restaurant gift certificates from our local library
  • 10 free tokens from Chuck E Cheese
  • a free book from Barnes and Noble
  • Ten dollars from TD Bank

My post from last fall gives the full rundown on each program. Junior really enjoyed reading program payoff day at the end of the summer when we ate out on the restaurant gift certificates and then proceeded to Barnes and Noble to select his book.

Encouragement for Readers

When Junior was 4 and chomping at the bit to read, his preschool didn't offer any formal reading instruction. One day, a brochure came home in his backpack for the Rutgers Reading Program. It sounded like something he'd enjoy, so I signed us up for the summer. Boy, was that a good idea!

Every Saturday, we (his level was a parent-and-child program) went to a nearby college campus for an hour of reading instruction. Our teacher got the class up and moving with dramatic readings of classic children's picture books. Then, we broke down into parent-child pairs for in-class activities, and went home with optional homework. To my surprise, Junior tore into the assignments and did them over and over. We got a stack of materials with our class registration. The audiobook went into our car's CD player and stayed there for months. To say that we got our money's worth out of this class would be a complete and total understatement!

In New Jersey, this program is offered by Rutgers University Division of Continuing Studies, and taught by the Institute of Reading Development. In New York, Fordham hosts the program. If you have a child who just can't wait to read, or a reader who needs support while school is out (classes go from pre-K4 to adult levels), I totally recommend this program. Not in New York or New Jersey? Check the Institute of Reading Development's website for classes near you.