Avoid the Summer Slide: The Best Summer Reading Programs for Kids

As the school year winds down, we want to empower our students to continue learning through the summer. Summer reading programs are a great incentive for students to read during the summer months. And while this is a wonderful way to help avoid the summer slide, I also believe that summer reading is a great way to help kids fall in love with reading. Here are 9 free summer reading programs that will have your students staying on top of their reading all summer long!

1. Local Libraries’ Summer Reading Programs

Discover the amazing wonders that your local library has to offer! Many libraries will have summer reading programs for different age ranges. You may even remember participating in one when you were growing up!

The summer reading programs at your libraries are free to sign up for. The milestones of the program may vary from library to library. However, the general idea is that readers will read a certain number of books or for so many minutes to win prizes. The more they read, the bigger the prizes become!

Each library program will be a little different. So check with your local public library to see if one is being offered and what the requirements are. You might even invite one of the public library librarians to visit your school for a day and share the summer reading program with your students.

2. Scholastic Summer Reading Program

The Summer Reading Program by Scholastic is a great way to encourage kids to read and help provide books to those in need.

Scholastic has created a phenomenal interactive summer reading program for young readers! The program begins in May and ends in early September. To start, families need to create a free account with Home Base, Scholastic’s reading app for kids. Within this platform, readers will have access to a digital world that is safe for them to explore the wonders of reading. They will be able to read books, meet authors, interact with characters, play games based on their books, and even participate in dance parties! Bonus: all of it takes place in the comfort of their homes!

As part of the summer reading program, kids will track their daily reading in the app. The app allows them to keep track of their reading streak. The longer the streak, the more that experiences in this digital world are unlocked. The longer their streak becomes, the more activities they earn to participate in.

An added bonus is that with their participation, they will be able to give back to other kids. By reading and tracking their reading in the app, they will be able to help unlock 25,000 books for Save the Children. These books will go to kids who live in rural areas or in areas that have no or very little access to books.

3. Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program

I am a major fan of the summer reading program Barnes and Noble has created! All readers have to do is read 8 books of their choosing and track them in the Summer Reading Journal. To take it a step further, they need to explain their favorite part of the book. Once the eight books have been read, they can bring their completed list to a nearby Barnes and Noble between July 1 and August 31. Once they show the list to an employee, they can choose a free book from the list provided in the Summer Reading Journal.

Families do not have to purchase the books read for this program from Barnes and Noble. They can find books of interest for their children at local libraries, thrift shops, or borrowed from a friend/family.

4. Half-Price Books Summer Reading Camp

Half Price Books Summer Reading Camp encourage reading with this online program.

Also at the top of my summer reading programs list is the free online summer reading camp hosted by Half-Price Books. This program begins June 1st and runs through July 31st. Once parents sign up, they will receive lists of recommended books and activities that encourage reading and staying on top of literacy skills.

Readers need to read for at least 15 minutes every day. They will be given a downloadable recording page to keep track of their time. Once they have collected 300 minutes, they can visit their local Half-Price Books store for their $5 Half-Price Books Bucks that can be used towards a book from the store.

Half-Price Books even provides a flyer you can send home with your students. It’s a quick and easy way to share this summer reading program with your school.

5. Chuck E. Cheese Reading Rewards

This summer reading program is shorter in length and uses play points as an incentive! Readers need to read every day for two weeks. They record what they read and how long on the provided Reading Rewards calendar. Once it’s completed, just take the reading calendar to the nearest Chuck E. Cheese to redeem for 10 free play points. Play points can be used to play any of the games inside Chuck E. Cheese!

While the reading calendar tracks reading for two weeks, students can complete this program multiple times! The fine print indicates that students are limited to turning in one completed calendar per day. So encourage your students to read all summer long by using multiple reading calendars.

7. Pizza Hut Book It Program

Camp Book It is a summer reading program sponsored by Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut’s Camp Book It! program is another one of my favorite summer reading programs to share with others! The Book It program is a free digital summer reading program that rewards readers for reading throughout the summer months.

Each month, they will set a goal for how much they want to read. Then they will track everything they have read on their Book It dashboard during June, July, and August. When they have achieved their monthly goal, their guardians who signed up for them will be emailed a certificate for a free personal pan pizza.

Readers can read any type of resource – chapter books, comics, magazines, audiobooks, ebooks, etc. Book It also provides reading resources for kids to read.

And. . . if you’d like to tap into the incentive of free pizza – make sure to check out the Book It! reading program for schools that runs from October – March each year.

8. Showcase Cinemas Summer Reading Program

To encourage kids to read, Showcase Cinemas created a reading program that rewards kids with free movies. While this reading program is limited to locations that have a Showcase Cinema (Massachusets, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island), if you are in one of these places this is a great summer reading program.

After reading a book, students write a short book report about the book. Then, they take the completed book report to Bookworm Wednesdays at the theater to earn their free movie admission. Parents or guardians and kids ages 6 and below accompanying them can receive free admission as well without a book report. Tickets do need to be reserved online or on the app.

Create Your Own Summer Reading Program

Create your own summer reading challenge

Whether you are looking for a more customized summer reading program, or just another way to encourage students, creating your own summer reading program is a great answer.

To do this, decide on the incentive you want to use. It might be a popsicle party when students return in the fall, entries into a drawing for some cool prizes, or a free school shirt. Really . . . it can be anything. Check with your school PTA to see if they will help by donating prizes or sponsoring the program.

Once you know the incentive, then decide how much students need to read and how they will track their reading. You could do a reading log, bingo card, or have them take selfies with the different books they read.

If the thought of having your own reading program sounds great, but the thought of adding one more thing to your to-do list makes you want to cry, then make sure to check out this done for you resource. I’ve put together a Summer Reading Challenge resource that includes everything you need except the prizes.

Which Reading Programs Will You Include?

As you can see, there are many summer reading programs that will encourage your students to keep reading all summer! These programs come with incentives to motivate young readers while helping them explore the world of reading. Make sure to check local businesses and bookstores near you to see if they are offering any other programs.

Share What You Learned!

Now that you know all the amazing options, it’s time to share them with teachers in your building or directly with the students on your campus.

Here are a few easy ways you can share the summer reading programs with your school:

  • Create a special page on the school website with all the links parents and students will need to participate in these programs
  • Send home a flyer with information about a variety of summer reading programs so parents know where they can look
  • Send an email to all the school families that includes the information about the summer reading programs in your area

Save These Summer Reading Programs

Remember to pin this to your favorite library or reading Pinterest board so you can come back any time you need fun, free summer reading programs for your school!

Encourage your kids or students to read during the summer months with a summer reading program.  These 9 free summer reading programs for kids are perfect for kids of all ages.

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