Getting youth to read over the summer can sometimes be a challenge. Luckily, there are several fun and non-stressful ideas out there to keep them engaged with reading. In my opinion, striving for a particular number of books or meticulously noting down which books you’ve read may not be the approach for you and may actually increase the amount of stress you have. Reading one book over the summer might be what you’re aiming for, with the goal to enjoy yourself. That’s why I hope these summer reading program ideas provide some inspiration and enjoyment when it comes to reading for fun this summer.
1. Get Caught Reading
Getting students to read in fun, unique places can entice them to take part in different summer reading programs. Having prizes for the coolest places can also be effective. In the past I’ve had a lot of success with this one, with students having their pictures taken on trampolines, up trees, even in dryers (definitely don’t encourage that one). I usually put an asterisk on these ones as I hope students can provide a review of the book they’ve chosen with the picture, considering the whole idea is for them to choose a book they love!
2. Shared Reading
This one can be tricky but worth it, in my opinion. I get students and staff to choose one book to read over the summer. I try to get them to choose in May or June so I can get more copies of the book. I also strongly encourage them to visit local libraries to borrow the book. I then post regular updates about the book over the summer in the attempt to create a shared experience. The uptake on this program might not be massive but if a student or parent wants to be involved I will do everything I can to get the book into their hands. It’s a lot of fun to get students to vote on which book will be the summer read.
3. Surprise Summer read
I’ve written before about this great program. This works with younger students, teens, and definitely adults. I get people to tell me their favourite genre, which can be anything. I will then take a book from our shelves, wrap it up, and deliver it to them before the end of the school year. I ask that the teachers and students write a review of the book on a recipe / display card that I can then put on display in September. It’s a lot of fun and works really well.
4. Give Away Those Weeded Books
This has to have some clarification. I do not recommend giving away weeded books that are so ratty that they look like the Dead Sea Scrolls. In my experience, we sometimes have books that are in great condition but never circulate for reasons that no one will ever understand. These books might find a home somewhere if they are simply moved to a different location or seen in a different light. This is why I recommend giving them away as part of a relaxed summer reading program. I cannot stress enough the impact of giving away books can have on students: they really love getting books. Having a table of good quality weeded books is a great way to keep them reading over the summer.
5. Take a Look at Art This Summer
I have run this in the past and it’s been really popular. I borrowed a huge art book from the library that covered ancient and modern art. Each day I took a look at one painting and spent some time reading about it. This was just a way for me to try and broaden my horizons as much as possible. However, what it did was even better, as I decided to go to a local art gallery and find out more about different artists. I went to a larger gallery and was able to find some of the pieces that I had read about. This is not possible for everyone, but I really looked forward to reading about the history of each art piece every evening. I want to stress that this is not something I thought I’d ever be interested in. This would be a fun, easy summer reading program idea for families to take part in.
6. Read in 100 places
If you want to take the “Get Caught Reading” challenge up a notch, you can try this Read in 100 Places Activity. It creates a checklist of different places kids can read in over the summer. The idea of course is to make it a fun challenge and to hopefully keep them reading all summer long.
7. Reading Scavenger Hunt
This one also looks really cool, especially for younger students. It’s a free printable activity that gets kids to read books that a friend recommends, that they get from the public library, and so on. It’s a great way to try different and interesting books in my opinion.
8. Comic book challenge
I’ve written before about comics and how they still count as reading. I think if you’ve got a young one at home that seems reluctant to read in any way you can provide a fun challenge. To read as many comics as they can by the end of the summer, or finish one comic if that will be a good enough challenge. I love reading comics and will encourage students to read them as much as possible!
9. Reading Logs
Reading logs aren’t really my thing, but some students love them, as do some parents. If you are one of those people that wants to keep track of their books, you can make your own list as you go or find a free printable one here. My advice is to not get too worked up over them or to stress about filling them in or reaching a certain number.
10. Yearly reading
I’ve never personally done this summer reading program but I love the idea of it. Ask someone in your family the year they born and read a book from that year. It’s fun, simple, and will can generate some interesting discussion.
11. Book quizzes
I did these over lockdown here in the UK and they were very popular. There’s nothing to say that they won’t be popular as a summer reading program if you’ve got the time once a week. How it works is very simple. Before the end of the school year, choose ten to twenty different books that have been quite popular over the year. Make a series of quizzes on Kahoot, Quizizz, or something similar. Once a week for the first or last few weeks of the summer, hold a book quiz where families can log in using private codes to take the quiz. It can be a great way to keep them thinking about books over the summer and promotes books they may not have read as well.
12. One minute book review
Again, I did these over lockdown and they were very popular. I made a YouTube account and recorded 1 minute book reviews of books that I had read. I just did these on my phone, and they were simple and effective. I am going to encourage older students and staff to try this over the summer whether they just record their voices or take a video of the book themselves.
13. Virtual reading
Another hugely popular program over lockdown, this one you’ll need permission from the publisher, for unless the book is a classic that’s not covered for copyright reasons. I read a book aloud (again, with permission) and recorded myself reading it. The book was aimed at eleven to twelve year-old students and it was very popular with parents who wanted their students to engage with reading. I also strongly suggest an audiobook challenge where students listen to at least one audiobook over the summer.
14. Librarian’s choice
If there’s one thing librarians love to do, it’s recommend books. This is a fun and simple reading idea for the summer. Go to your public library and ask the librarian for one book that they recommend you read over the summer. It can be for someone of any age.
15. If you read just one book…
Another fun and simple one for the summer. I’m going to write on the whiteboard in the library “Recommend One Book To Read This Summer” and see what response I get. Students love recommending books and writing on the whiteboard in general; this kills two birds with one stone and creates a unique shared experience.
I hope some of these are summer reading program ideas are useful. The ultimate goal is to have fun and keep reading, whatever that may be. If you are fortunate enough to have a public library near you I strongly recommend visiting as they usually have unique and fun ideas that are specific to your area of the world. They also have summertime events and author visits that can really make a big difference in how youth engage with reading.
Finally, if you’re an adult who wants to do a summer reading program, we’ve got you covered!