How To Design A Summer Reading Program For Your Kids (Or Yourself) + Printables!

While we are huge fans of our library's summer reading program, and participate every year, designing your own summer reading program for your household gives you the flexibility to focus on your own reading priorities and to offer a truly motivating rewards system in order to meet goals. If it sounds daunting, keep in mind that there are really only two things you need to decide on in order to get going; a tracking system and a rewards system, which you can make as simple or as complex as you like.

Our goal was to design something easy to run that had a big enough payoff to keep our kids really engaged. Trust me, I am the least organized human being on the planet, if I can do this, I promise you can too.


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Set Priorities + A Time Frame

Are you aiming to get your kid to spend more time in the pages of a book? Or maybe you'd like them to branch out and explore different genres or you'd like them to interact more with the literary community around you. Whatever it is, make that the focus of your program.  Also set a time frame! We'll be doing ours between June-July, because that's what works for our schedules, but decide what makes sense for you.


A tracking system

To keep the playing field level with kids of multiple ages, we are planning to have our kids track time read rather than pages or number of books, because the 7 year old can read about a dozen little chapter books in the time it takes the 13 year old to read a chunky YA fantasy novel. Tracking by time keeps it fair. For my only child, the number of picture books we read would add up too quickly, so time is a better pacing system for us.

Some options for tracking by time: A lined 3x5 notecard used as a bookmark gives them a convenient way to jot down how many minutes they read. You could also use a simple progress chart and have each square count for 20 minutes and give a reward once it's completed. It'd be easy to design a basic one yourself, too (try Canva)! Let the kids color, bedazzle, sticker and otherwise adorn them to their heart's content to make it more fun and personal.

If you'd rather track by the book, or would like your kids to record what books they read in addition to time spent, here are some seriously great book tracking ideas to get you thinking about what makes sense for your family. It can be really gratifying and motivating for kids to physically see how many books they've read.

If you want your kids to branch out into different genres, you could design a bingo card with different genres to cross off. If you want your kids to explore the literary community, a  simple checklist of bookish activities and adventures to complete would be easy to do. If you suck at drawing as much as I do, here are some printable templates for a multi-purpose chart, a checklist and a simple generator for a bingo card. Put whatever system you use somewhere highly visible, like on the fridge!


A Rewards System

1. Set a budget. If you want to splurge a little, that's wonderful, but there are a ton of free or inexpensive options to consider as well. 

2. Decide if there will be many small rewards or one big reward, and what they need to do to earn it. 

3. Think about what your child is actively into at the moment (my son is SUPER into legos), or think about an experience they'd love to have that would really motivate them. Some options for experiences that we've been considering:

  • A movie night at home complete with snacks of their choice. You could even take them on a special trip to the store to pick out the snacks themselves, or try out a fun new popcorn recipe.

  • A picnic lunch out somewhere awesome with the menu of their choice, or lunch out to their favorite restaurant.

  • A trip to the Zoo or Aquarium

  • Tickets to a play/concert/movie/theme park/museum whatever they're interested in. Check your library to see if you can rent passes to local attractions, or check free admission days for things like museums.

  • Choosing a new decor item for their bedroom. New bedspread, wall decor, lamp, or rug, etc.

  • Sign them up for a class or a lesson they've been wanting to take, whether its violin or drawing, you know your child's interests!

Some smaller reward options:

  • Go out for ice cream, or make sundaes at home!

  • A visit to the local bookstore to pick out a new read

  • A free pass for extra screen time, to skip chores, to stay up late, etc.

  • A small toy they've been coveting

  • Bake a treat together or try out a new popsicle recipe!

  • A new bookmark. You could even find some cute printable ones or design one yourself on Canva.



Whatever you've decided on, set aside some time to explain to your kids how the program will work, discuss rewards, and do something special to kick it off and build excitement. You can have them make bookmarks, personalize the materials you've designed or printed out, color their own library tote bag with inexpensive fabric markers, create their reading trackers, or whatever else makes sense for you. Adjust this to your kids' ages, of course; teens might just appreciate a library trip to stock up or some new stationary to track their reading. 

These concepts work for adults too. Set yourself a goal whether it's to read an hour a day, complete ten books, try a new genre, or go to some literary events. Hold yourself accountable and treat yourself to lunch at that new restaurant, those kick ass shoes, a self care day, a fancy bottle of wine, etc.


What We're Doing


Because we wanted to focus on time read and engaging with a literary lifestyle we designed a simple game board that blends the two. The idea is to complete one square a day, and to mix smaller rewards in, while still having them work toward a bigger reward when they finish. 

We're planning on grabbing some fresh craft supplies like markers and stickers and hosting a little bookmark decorating party for our kids to kick this thing off. We love to celebrate the little things around here, especially when it's book related, and kids really respond when you make the effort! It's an easy way to get them psyched for summer reading.


Ideas + Free printables from other bloggers

Mama Loves Best has an amazing guide for helping your kids love books!

Simple as That has a really great printable reading log set.

How Does She has an entire reading program system complete with printables.

Abundant Life has some great ideas and resources.

Another cute printable reading log from Balancing Home.


Are you planning on doing a summer reading program for yourself or for your kids? We'd love to hear about it!