Family Summer Reading Program

My kids like to read. They don’t all love it yet, but they never will if they don’t encounter good books.


Our library runs a summer reading program every year, and we have enjoyed that, but my kids are all done with its requirements a week after registering, and then we have 2.95 more months of summer.  What’s a mom going to do?

So I made my own summer reading program.  In the early years, it’s just volume: try to read a little every day. But for my older kids, I wanted to push them into new genres and introduce them to new friends.  Here’s what I came up with.

Read one book from each of these genres (a book you haven’t read before!) during the summer and win a book of your choosing.  (I put a price limit here.)

1. A biography, autobiography or memoir.

2. A how-to book or a cookbook.

3. A devotional.

4. A classic.

5. A play or short-story collection.

6. A Newbery or ALA winner.

7. An international book.

To fulfill these requirements, one child read a biography of the Brothers Grimm, The Harry Potter Cookbook, Henri Nouwen’s Return of The Prodigal Son, The Three Musketeers, The Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, and Barakat’s Tasting the Sky.  Another one read The Diary of Anne Frank, a book of knitting patterns, Not a Fan, Little Men, Kipling’s Just So Stories, Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons, and Daughter of the Mountains.

One child’s first question was, “What if I refuse?”  Excuse me? I said. The second question was, “How am I going to find all these books?” But I had a list of suggestions for that, too:

  • Ask a librarian. They love to help readers find good books.
  • Biography/memoir: choose a time period you like (for example, the Cold War, or the Medieval period) or a famous person who did something you admire (eg, Shakespeare). D’Aulaire, Diane Stanley and Kathleen Krull all write biographies we like.
  • How-to: think of something you want to learn about. There are the “Idiot’s guides to” or “Dummy’s Guides To” or lots of other how-guides on the shelves. (Figure out the call number for the subject you are interested in a browse the shelves.)
  • Devotional: this is a book that helps you spend time with Jesus. We have a bunch on our shelf that are written by people who really loved Jesus (Mother Teresa, C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson).
  • A classic: Mom & Dad have LOTS of suggestions about these. Do you want to read a great adventure? A thrilling escape? Something funny? A romance? A mystery?
  • A play for short story collection: we have some good plays in the house- Shakespeare, A Raisin in the Sun, Our Town, Antigone. We have short stories about an American girl after WWII (Victory Over Japan), people trying to survive in nature (Call of the Wild), about time travel (Fire Watch, Impossible Things), or without a theme so that each one is different.
  • We have a list of all the Newbery and ALA winners. They also have them at the library.
  • An international book: this is a book about someone in a different country. I have a stack of international novels on the shelf in the study, or you can ask a librarian.

Feel free to borrow and adapt this list to make it fit your family.  Happy summer reading!

Summer Reading Program: Sum Up

Regarding our Summer Reading Program

Do you remember Inigo Montoya: “Let me ‘splain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry’ Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape… after I kill Count Rugen.”

While there are no weddings to arrange, brides to murder or Guilder to frame for it, far too many books were read to give you a list.  But there are some highlights and things I’ll do differently next year:


  • the children read tons of books
  • J read books he wouldn’t have chosen for himself
  • O chose books for himself to read
  • O & M gained great confidence in their reading
  • children (not just J) were coming downstairs first thing with their books and snuggling on the couch to read… next to each other, even!
  • the exercise club worked as well as the reading program

Changes for Next Year:

  • cheaper prizes.  Or perhaps, just designated prizes, so that the free prizes are chosen (and not just the books) first
  • I need to have all the details set BEFORE I announce the program, so that there’s no negotiation
  • I think next year, we may do it purely by time… or have the kids set a goal for themselves

Did you make a summer reading or exercise club?  How did it go?