13 Free Summer Reading Programs For Kids in 2023
The summer months offer children a well-deserved break from school, but it's essential to keep reading over the summer to prevent what educators call the "Summer Slide" or a slide back in their reading due to lack of practice and development of key reading skills. To prevent summer slide, parents can make reading fun and help build a habit of reading in their child's daily life.
When parents encourage their children to read during the summer, it helps them to maintain their reading gains, nurture a love for reading, fosters crucial skills like comprehension and critical thinking, and builds their confidence and success for the next school year.
In this blog, you will find a list of summer reading programs, book clubs, and great activities for kids of all ages and levels to make reading time fun over the summer. Signing up your child for a summer program could make all the difference in their reading journey. It would be a shame to see their months of reading progress decline over the summer, and a book club could save you from the fight of "making" them read each day. Signing up for a program provides a fun challenge or incentive for them to read. Some challenges include a special prize such as a free book upon completion, free food, a chance to enter a free giveaway and other fun free prizes. The most important thing is that they build great experiences around reading and build a love of reading!
Reasons To Sign Your Child Up For a Summer Reading Program
Summer reading programs, challenges, summer reading skills programs, and book clubs can be a great way to provide free summer fun and nurture an enthusiastic reader in your child. Listed are some of the other benefits:
Fosters a love for reading: Summer reading programs allow children to find a passion for reading and discover a new wide range of books, genres, and authors, building a lifetime love for reading.
Prevents summer slide or learning loss: Research shows children can have learning loss during summer, particularly in reading. Summer reading programs can prevent this by giving them structured reading activities and more opportunities to read and keep up with their skills, which prevents a decline in their reading.
Improves vocabulary and reading comprehension: Consistent reading during summer break helps excel a child's vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Exploring new books and texts exposes them to new ideas, different writing styles, and vocabulary, expanding their language and knowledge.
Boosts overall academic performance: Reading regularly during summer break helps children maintain their hard-earned literacy skills from their previous school year, which leads to improved performance and confidence overall in school when they return in the fall.
Enhances creativity and critical thinking skills: Reading stimulates a child's imagination as they explore new places and worlds they have never been before. It leads to advanced critical thinking skills as their minds expand. Often summer reading programs provide activities, discussions, and creative projects to inspire children to think critically about the material they read.
Promotes empathy: As mentioned above, reading exposes children to diverse cultures, perspectives, and experiences. Children develop a broader understanding of the world by reading books from different authors and genres, fostering empathy and compassion towards others.
Builds confidence and independence: When a child completes a summer reading program and or achieves their reading goals, it can boost their confidence and give them a sense of pride and accomplishment. Reading helps foster independence as children take ownership of their reading progress and choices.
Provides constructive summer activities: These programs offer constructive and enriching activities for children during their summer break from school. Structured activities such as this keep them engaged, feeling productive, and away from screens, offering a much healthier alternative for entertainment.
Fosters a sense of community: Many children are home for summer and lack the community they have during the school year. Summer reading programs are great because some involve group activities, book clubs, or library events. This way, children can continue interacting with peers and making new friends with similar interests. This camaraderie can make reading more enjoyable, having a long-lasting positive effect on reading for them.
Develops essential lifelong skills: Reading extends beyond academic success. Reading programs can help children develop crucial skills such as critical thinking, communication, inferencing, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, concentration and focus, goal setting, cultural understanding, awareness, stress reduction and relaxation, and more.
Keep reading to find the perfect resource and or program to ignite your child's reading this summer below:
1. Public Libraries
The first step is to check with your local libraries about what type of summer reading programs they provide. Your local library can be a great resource for summer reading ideas!
Not only is it a good idea to get your child a library card and go to the library to check out a variety of great books to expand beyond their personal library at home. They also often provide fun literacy activities for kids, such as weekly story time and summer reading activities. Different library locations offer various things. For example, we have the First Partner's Summer Book Club in California. According to their website, "The Summer Book Club, part of the First Partner's California for ALL Kids initiative, is an annual program and partnership with the California State Library that aims to reduce learning loss by encouraging kids and caregivers to read throughout the summer."
Click here to see what programs are offered near you (for California).
They also provide a reading list of recommendations of books to read over the summer by age (Preschool-12th grade). To view that list, click here.
2. Barnes and Noble
Kids can earn a free book through the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program for kids in Grades 1-6!
All your child has to do is read eight books over the summer, record them in their reading log, and write a book review in their reading journal about their favorite part of the book and why. Then, when the reading challenge is complete, take the materials to your local Barnes and Noble between July 1 and August 31, 2023, to receive a free book specific to their grade level.
Click here for your free reading log/reading journal to participate in the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program.
3. Scholastic Summer Reading Program
Kids can participate in the scholastic summer reading program called Home Base from Monday, April 26, to Friday, September 3. Home Base allows children to celebrate their achievements, get excited about reading, features virtual events for the entire family, complete fun interactive lessons, gain a reading streak, and help donate books to increase access to books for their peers.
To sign up for Home Base, click here. 4. Pizza Hut: The Book It Program! Your child can participate in Camp BOOK IT! June-August. The program is open to PreK-6th-grade students (ages 4-12). Through the digital dashboard, parents can help their child set their own reading goals, track their reading, and win a free Personal Pan Pizza at your local restaurant when they reach their reading goals!
Click here to sign up for Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program. 5. Chuck E. Cheese Reading Rewards If the incentive of daily reading over the summer to keep up their literacy skills doesn't spark your child's interest, perhaps winning free play points at Chuck E. Cheese Kids will! You and your child must download the Chuck E. Cheese reading rewards calendar (it can be printed and completed every two weeks!) All you have to do is mark the down each day that your child reads. You can set a time limit; I recommend at least twenty minutes daily. When they complete two weeks of reading, take it to your local restaurant and trade it in for ten free play points with any food purchase. You are allowed to do this as many times as you would like! Kids will get a little taste of the work hard, play hard lesson in life!
Click here to download your reading rewards calendar. 6. Sonlight Summer Reading Challenge Kit Sonlight is a homeschool curriculum company, and they have created a free summer reading kit that families can download and implement over the summer. It's full of short quick activities that will motivate your child to read all summer! The kit includes punch cards, reading logs, reading bingo, discussion questions, crafts, and more!
Click here to download your Free Kit. 7. Half Price Books Summer Reading Program This program rewards children (ages preschool-middle school) with free Half Price Books gift cards when they read for at least 300 minutes during the months of June and July. Your get child must submit their reading log at the end of each month to get $5 Bookworm Bucks that they can use towards a book purchase.
To register for the program, click here. 8. Reading Is Fundamental Summer Reading Feild Trips Your child can take a pledge to read all summer long by clicking here. RIF will challenge your child to get out and explore their local surroundings through reading! Parents will be guided through how to keep their children engaged and excited about reading with book lists, tips, activity sheets, and more. They also provide free reading logs, postcards, and coloring sheets so children can scrapbook their summer field trip reading experience! Click here to get more information about summer field trips. Also, you may want to take the time to look around on their website, they are an amazing resource for all things reading. They have read-aloud videos (like the one below), which can be engaging and fun for young readers, author interviews, lesson plans, activities, and more!
9. Showcase Cinemas: Bookworm Wednesdays
This one is for my East Coasters (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Ohio). All children have to do is bring their book report entry form completed on a Wednesday at 10 am July 5th -July 26th, but do note that tickets must be reserved ahead of time online or via the mobile app!
Click here to download your child's book report entry form.
10. Junie B. Kids Club
The Junie B. Jones series is already so popular with younger children in first grade to the end of third grade or beginning of fourth. If your child is a Junie B. Jones fanatic, I recommend clicking here to get them started with the book club.
You will find a reading log, activity brochure, and sticker sheet there. You can sign up for the Junie B. Parents Newsletter to stay updated with all things Junie and to receive fun activities, games, and more!
11. Mensa for Kid's Excellence in Reading
This program allows kids to choose from grade-level book lists. They must complete each book by checking them off the list as they read, and both the child and parent are to sign off stating that they really read the material when they are done. Upon completion, students will turn in the form and receive a certificate of recognition and a free t-shirt.
To Sign up for the Mensa Reading program, click here.
12. Professional Sports Teams
I was so excited to find that many professional sports teams have summer reading programs to keep children excited and motivated to read over their time off from school. The following are some of the programs I found:
Dodgers: Reading Champions: This program is for children in K-8th grades. In the program, you can track the time your child spends reading, and every month, those who spend at least 15-30 minutes a day reading will be entered to win Dodger's prizes!
Seahawks Summer Reading Program: Sign your child up for the program, and they can log their minutes read on the Seahawk's digital tracker (they also have paper ones you can print as well), but you will want to be sure to log it in the digital tracker because each month a top overall reader will be picked and at the end of the program as well! Additionally, their website states, "For every collective 25,000 minutes that participants read this summer, prizes will be distributed at random to lucky readers, following the conclusion of the summer reading program! Parent/guardian(s) will be contacted directly via email if their Seahawks Summer Reader is selected as a prize winner." Prizes for this include fan packs, autographed footballs, Pro Shop Gift Cards, flags, and more!
Denver Broncos Bookworms: This program is expected to launch again in June 2023 but hasn't officially yet. Their website states, "The Denver Broncos are dedicated to encouraging summer reading for all young fans through Broncos Bookworms! The program encourages summer reading for all elementary-aged Broncos fans by providing incentives and chances to win awesome Broncos prizes. Those that complete the challenge will earn recognition as an Official Broncos Bookworm! The program is expected to launch again in June of 2023. Check out our Broncos Bookworms Activity Book for games and puzzles to stay engaged in literacy and all things Broncos! Stay up to date on Broncos Bookworms news, future program activities, and the 2023 program launch by filling out the form below!"
To fill out the Broncos Bookworms form, click here.
Atlanta Hawks Check It Out Reading Challenge: This program rewards children in grades K-12 who successfully read at least five books over the summer, and they will receive Check it Out Reading Challenge Bookmarks and a free youth ticket with a purchase of one adult ticket to a 2023-2024 regular season game.
The Dallas Mavericks Reading Challenge: Students in grades K-12 are challenged to read for 20 minutes a day for forty days. Those who do are entered to win prizes from the Dallas Mavericks and Whataburger.
Washington Nationals Summer Slugger: This program was created to prevent summer learning loss. Summer Slugger is a digital course with 72 pages of content and challenges for math, a spelling program, literacy, writing, and more! They also provide lots of offline materials to supplement their course on their website as well.
Reading With The Rays: For this program, you must download a game card, and each child that completes it is eligible for two (2) free Lower Reserved tickets. The cards must be turned in to your local librarian to receive the game ticket voucher. To download your Reading With the Rays game card, click here.
A summer reading program for older kids ages 13 and up. This program offers a total of 28 free audiobooks to children each week (April 27 through August 2). Each week they feature two free thematically-paired audiobooks. To sign your child up for this, click here. Then you can download each week's audiobook through Sora. Download it here.
I hope these reading opportunities are helpful to you and your child this summer as you take on the challenges of summer. I know it can be hard to spend your family time, let your child feel like they get a summer break, visit family, go camping, shuffle your kids off to summer camp, and find the time to read. Many parents have difficulty making summer reading feel enticing, but I hope these programs bring your child the right level of challenge. I have presented options for all reading levels, from early readers to high schoolers. Remind them that putting in the effort over the summer will be worth it! It will prevent summer slide, set them up for success in their next school year, and continue building confidence in reading!
About the Author Janay Neufeld is an online reading specialist and confidence coach for kids. Her unique approach can help children worldwide increase their confidence and reading skills with positive mindset training, helping them reach their full potential!
She has ten years of experience helping children feel like skilled, confident readers. She has her multiple-subject teaching credential, she is Orton Gillingham trained through the Institute for Multisensory Education, and she has a Master of Arts in Education. She is also certified as a life coach for kids through Adventures in Wisdom.
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