How To Encourage Kids To Read This Summer

Today’s post is written by Happiest Home contributor and resident book reviewer Devon Barta of The Paperhouse. Enjoy!

summer reading, kids, ideas

Like most libraries, ours does a fantastic job of engaging young readers. It offers a weekly story hour, broken down into age groups, and in the preschool session, the librarian reads several stories aloud, sets time aside for crafting and even provides snacks.

But whenever I tell the kids that it’s story hour at the library, their first question isn’t what story will be read. Instead, they wonder dreamily about what new snack they’ll get to try.

In an effort to put more read into summer reading, I searched Pinterest for children’s book club ideas and other ways to encourage kids to read over the summer break, and found a comprehensive and oh-so-lovely idea from fellow bibliophile Jenny from Dinner, A Love Story (I hope you’ll read her full post, then read on for how we implemented the idea in our family).

The idea is as straightforward as it is clever:

  • Assign points to books based on both the titles chosen and the child’s reading level.
  • Create point categories filled with prizes to redeem so your children have something to strive for.

That’s it. The kids – and the books, newspapers, magazines or comics they choose – do the rest.

I knew this project had the potential to be more than just a reading exercise, that it could be a way to pull each of us away from our computers and iPads and never-ending list of appointments. But I didn’t think the true scope of that revelation would take shape so soon.

We hadn’t even started on the reading portion when that became clear: I asked the boys to help select material and prizes and soon discovered that what they wanted to earn was incredibly simple. They wanted their dad to take a day off work to hike around a local lake with them; they wanted to earn enough points to invite their cousins over for a sleepover; they even asked for simple trip into the local movie theater to watch the new Monsters, Inc. movie this summer (Ahem. With popcorn and soda, of course – our family is big on snacks. Clearly).

And decorating our folders was a kick.

The beauty in this idea is that it’s completely customizable, but two things will make it easier. First, get to know the layout of your local library and/or bookstore. Start with your library, and ask your librarian what grade-level order their books are shelved in and then choose and assign your book points accordingly. (Bookstores usually categorize their shelves in much the same way). Figure out where the books are that are just at and just above your child’s reading level, and let your kids wander within that zone.

Second, don’t be afraid to put “impossible” books on your child’s list. My boys are five, and they are reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I help them through the books, of course, but in the span of just six weeks they are sounding out and memorizing words that would have been impossible for them without those almost-out-of-reach books.

If your children have younger siblings, be sure to give them bonus points for reading to their baby sisters or brothers. It’s a great way to engage children who might be too young to join and reward older kids for taking initiative.

Even though reading sometimes has to be coaxed into our kids, that effort pays dividends. The learning to read gives way to actual reading, and the reading becomes secondary to spending time together. It becomes something our children just do, which is what every teacher, librarian and parent strives for.

I also joined in, creating my own summer reading list. It includes titles that I’ve been dying to re-read, such as Jane Eyre, and a couple newly-added historical fiction gems, thanks to Kristen’s insightful Historical Motherhood series here on The Happiest Home: Wolf Hall is currently sitting on my night stand and tucked neatly underneath is Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII.

summer reading, books, list, kids

I didn’t assign any points or redeem any prizes, but I did decorate my folder. That gal lounging seaside? That’s me. And no, that’s not a fun, fruity drink sitting next to her. It’s straight whiskey.

Consider it my story-time snack.

* * * * *

We’ve loved having Devon’s monthly reviews here on The Happiest Home (you can read all of them here), and so we’re a bit sad that this will be her last. Devon is diving into some new projects – including a job as a sports reporter for her local paper, the St. Maries Gazette-Record. We’ll be following her there as well as at The Paperhouse. Cheers, Devon!

About The Author


  1. Jen
  2. C. K. Bradley
  3. Dan