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How to Make the Most of Summer Reading Programs

Reading at the table. My kids are book lovers, there is no doubt.

How to make the most of summer reading programs. Get your kids on board without losing your mind.

My kids love reading. Picture books, chapter books, how-to-draw books. Fiction, non-fiction. Graphic novels and annoying anime…they love it all. You can be we are regulars in the Summer Reading Program Racket. We have done Pizza Hut’s Book-It, Barnes and Noble and of course our public library. Here are a few tips to make the most of the summer reading programs in your area.

How to get the most out of summer reading programs.

1. Start early

The sooner you start the sooner your little bookworm will start pestering you to redeem their prizes. It doesn’t matter that they have not actually done the reading, or filled out the form. They can still beg and plead for you to take them to turn in their forms. Right now.

2. Get lots of summer reading forms.

Because they will get lost. Several will get lost on the first day, a couple when they are half done and if you have more than six kids I can guarantee one child (the Type A one) will lose it on the way to the library to redeem it. Mr. or Miss  Type A would never dream of fudging the reading…so you get to start all over. Meanwhile, your Not Type A children likely just scribbled in the answers the first day or on the way to redeem their prize.

How to get the most out of summer reading programs.

3. Make sure each child turns in their form on a different day.

Our local library offers a variety of prizes from bagels to frozen yogurt. Turning the forms in on different days assures you teach child will get a different prize. Not only does this mean half a dozen (or more) separate trips to get their prizes but (I kid you not) last summer one child got a free hamburger from Boomers while another got an all natural health food “cookie” from a local health food store. Let’s just say one child was happier about their prize than the other.

How to get the most out of summer reading programs.

4. Take out a loan.

Not only have all of my children turned in their summer reading forms on separate days, but Avi got a “free” 5-ounce frozen yogurt at one of those self-serve places.  You know that even if take her alone and don’t actually buy any myself it is going to cost a minimum of $8.46 to pay for the overage. Trying to control a kid in a self-serve froyo shop is like trying to get Pioneer Woman to skip the butter and use non-fat milk in her recipes. Or getting Soule Mama to “cut back” on her knitting.

How to get the most out of summer reading programs.

5. Love that your kids love to read.

I have always wondered if summer reading programs work for reluctant readers or not. I have always been a reader, but let me tell you if they had an Algebra Problem Program and by completing 15 hours of algebra in the summer I got a free algebra book as a reward…well let’s just say I would not have chosen to drink that particular Kool-Aid.



  1. Christine

    I had an almost-non-reader (who I think has an undiagnosed learning or visual problem we were never able to get diagnosed), so I learned to love the only thing she enjoyed reading — Archie comics. I gave her a huge box of them for Christmas one year, and she went slowly through the whole box. She also read laboriously through one of the huge Harry Potter books and made it all the way to the end. Finding something your child LIKES to read is absolutely critical.

    • Renee

      This is so true! Finding something a reluctant reader really enjoys can make all the difference in the world! So glad this worked for you. Chuck loved the Archie comics as a kid.

  2. Csmith

    All of my kids, even the reluctant readers, love reading programs. We always do the Book It program and pick up our pizzas to take to the park. Sometimes I invent my own incentives, (read 10 books go to a movie). I started that after I made my son read Ender’s Game before seeing the movie. Another child protested that none of the movies she wanted to see had a book so I offered her the 10 for 1 deal. It has worked wonders as we rarely go to the theater and it’s a big treat.

    Whenever we go to the yogurt shop I take a pen and mark a line on the inside of every cup, everyone is allowed up to 3 different flavors, 3 toppings and no going over the line.

    • Renee

      That’s great to hear that it works for your kids! I love the book Ender’s Game and was so disappointed in the movie :( So glad it got your son to read it thought. Which did he like better?

      Awesome mom hack for the yogurt!

  3. Erica

    HaHa! I feel the snark…
    Once I got to about 6 children, I just couldn’t take the programs anymore. Standing there signing them all up, pregnant with a toddler, shuffling the papers and making sure we got all the hours in (cuz I’m a rule-follower), then spending days redeeming the freebies around town…
    I made my own program and it works really well. Each child has a list of books assigned by me per quarter. I choose things they will like, but may not always know to pick. When they are done, the youngers do oral book reports and the olders do written ones. They have then earned a goodie from the bakery next shopping trip.
    But your post cracks me up. Life in a big family!!

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