Ideas for Teachers and Parents · Summer Reading Programs

Summer Reading Programs: Part Four, Creating Your Own Program

This week, I’ve talked a lot about the importance of summer reading and the effectiveness of summer reading programs. With many libraries remaining closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you might be having a hard time finding a local summer reading program for your family. If your library is currently closed, I recommend keeping an eye on their website for information about building closures and re-openings, as well as online programming. Your library might be in the process of making summer reading materials available on their website.

If your local library is currently unable to host a summer reading program and you’ve been searching for one online, you may have found that while there are summer reading programs that offer online access, some of them have specific age limits for participants, or rely on virtual incentives that might not appeal to your unique readers.

Matilda, by Roald Dahl, is a wonderful story about a little girl who loves to read.

Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on an online summer reading program that doesn’t fit your family’s needs. You always have the option to create your own!

Before you begin the process of creating your own summer reading program, it’s helpful to take a moment to think about why you want your family to spend time reading this summer, and which family members will be taking part. Is this going to be a summer reading program for your kids, or will it involve the whole family?

Personally, I like the idea of whole-family participation. While I understand that life gets busy, and sometimes you just don’t feel like reading, this is a great opportunity for parents to model good reading habits for their children. As I mentioned earlier this week, telling your kids that reading is important is a good thing. But when they see you taking time out to read every day, you’re showing them that reading is important…and that can have a powerful impact.

How To Create A Summer Reading Program

Once you’ve taken some time to think about your reasons for creating your own program, and have decided who will be participating, it’s time to start planning. This process does not have to be done all at once, and should be fun for you and your family.

Here are the steps I recommend taking to create your own home-based program…

  • Include the whole family in the creation process! As many teachers will tell you, one way to help kids stay engaged is to encourage them to take ownership of their learning experiences. While it might be quick and easy to create this program on your own, seeking input from your family will make your summer reading program more effective in the long run.
  • Determine Your Individual Reading Goals: Reading goals are going to be more effective if they’re personalized, and will probably depend on the skills of your readers and their current attitudes about reading. You might have one child who aims to read a certain number of pages per day on their own, while a younger child reads out loud to you for 20 minutes. Your goals could include:
    • Set Number of Minutes Per Day — This is great for younger or reluctant readers. You or your child can set a timer for the required number of minutes, and when the timer goes off, they’re done for the day. It is recommended that kids read for at least 20 minutes each day.
    • Set Number of Pages Per Day — This is a great option for readers of all ages. The amount of time this takes per day will be determined by your child’s reading level, and the difficulty of the book they are reading. If you find that they are getting through their pages in less than 20 minutes, then they should increase their number of pages. (Readers could also choose to complete a specific number of chapters per day.)
    • Set Number of Books Per Week — This is more appropriate for ambitious readers, but could also be used for developing readers who are reading picture books aloud to a parent or sibling.
  • Determine How You Will Track Each Reader’s Progress: The way in which you track the progress of each reader is up to you, but will probably depend on their individual goals. If you google “Reading Goal Chart,” you will find a tremendous number of options (both free and paid) that are available for download. My personal favorite can be found on the Chore Charts website, and is great for readers of any age. The website offers a free PDF, as well as a paid version that allows you to edit the document in Microsoft Word. (I’d go with the free PDF myself.)
  • Come Up With Incentives: One of the things that makes summer reading programs effective are the incentives that are offered. Whether it’s a coupon for a free pizza, a new book, or brightly-colored stickers, we love to get rewards. As you and your family come up with your own incentives, here are some things to consider…
    • Readers should not be penalized for not meeting their weekly goal, but they also shouldn’t receive a prize they haven’t earned. If your child hasn’t met their goal by the end of the week, you can give them opportunities to make up their missed time (or pages) during the following week, so they can still earn the missed incentive.
    • Keep incentives reasonable in terms of cost. This is a rough time financially for many families worldwide, and your summer reading program should not be a financial burden.
    • Avoid unrealistic or virus-dependent incentives. We don’t know how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last, and you don’t want to set your family up for disappointment.
    • Try to keep reading incentives home-based and family-oriented. Your family does not need to risk virus exposure.
  • Have A Sign-Up Sheet For Your Readers: Having your readers sign up for your summer reading program isn’t strictly necessary, but it does function as a physical reminder of the commitment they are making to participate, especially if you post it on the fridge.
  • Choose A Start Date: Many summer reading programs begin around the time that school is ending, but choose a starting date that makes the most sense for your family. You might prefer to begin your program the day after school lets out, at the beginning of the following week, or immediately after you finish creating your program.

I hope that you and your family have fun creating your own summer reading program! If you’ve decided to create your own program and would like to share your experience, please leave a comment on this post.

Have you missed any of this week’s posts? The following schedule contains links to previous summer reading articles. This schedule may be subject to change:

I’ll be back tomorrow with some ideas for summer reading incentives. I hope you have a wonderful day! Stay healthy, everyone!

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