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Summer Reading Ideas for Tots to Teens

This is such a popular post that I keep updating it. My kids are older, but we still focus on reading lots in the summer. These ideas are still great for my middle schoolers!

Ahhh, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer have begun around here.  I am trying to not over plan things, really.  I want to let the summer days unfold a bit and have lots of time for free play and exploration. We’re focusing on doing the things we love–creative pursuits, spending lots of time in nature and reading!!  Yes, reading.

Kids do need a bit of a break and so I am not a fan of hard core academics over the summer. But, hey, we LOVE to read, and now, we have even more time to do so. Summer can get filled up with activities pretty quickly, so I am really thinking this through. I am making a conscious effort to encourage our family to pick up a book.

When I say encourage–I mean just that–provide time to read, have interesting books around, give my kids time to be bored, and have them see ME reading more than usual. I am NOT, nor ever have I been, an advocate of bribery, of any sort, when it comes to reading. 

I want my kids to see reading as enjoyable in and of itself – Not something that I have to offer up prizes for them to do. Alfie Kohn(his book is a must read) sites numerous studies that reveal that rewards actually turn kids off and make them do inferior work.  I want my kids to read because they enjoy reading, not because they are hoping to get a prize.

Want to see what I’ll be doing this summer?

1. Making a list of books to read.  

This will be me, more than my kids, but they do have a few favorite authors to get started. I am consulting several sources-Honey For a Child’s Heart, The Read-Aloud Revival, my pinterest board, and our local library – and making a list of books for the whole family to read.  I won’t force them on my kids–but I may choose them for a read aloud or just casually place them in one of our many book baskets.

2. Give my kids a book light. 

My kids go to bed early–even in the summer we stick to our 8:00-ish bedtime.   But with it being so light out, I do let them stay up a little longer reading in bed.  I make sure their book lights are fully charged.

3. We will be visiting different libraries.

 Its always fun to take a little trip to a nearby town and visit their library. Find out which libraries are in your local library’s network and you can even check out books.

 However, even if you can’t checkout books, it’s always fun to take a look around. Check out their kids section–maybe they have an extra cozy area to read or a big fish tank to look at.  These visits are perfect for a rainy day or when yo need a break from too much sun.

4. Every day, I carve out regular reading time.

Ours is right after dinner(or after our evening walk).  We have about an hour or so to laze on the sofa or in bedrooms and just read.  I take out a book and announce,” It’s reading time!” and my kids usually follow suit.  Sometimes I read aloud, sometimes we share things from books we are reading, or we all just sit and read silently to ourselves. 

Update: This is probably the best strategy to getting kids to sit and read. We’ve had our evening reading time for years – during all four seasons and at 10 and 12, my kids are still voracious readers.

5. During the summer months, I still limit screen time.

If given a choice, most kids will choose screen time over any other activity.  During the school year, we have screen time only on the weekends. I do loosen up(a bit) in the summer.  Screen time is from 4 to 5 each day–if we are home.  Otherwise – no screens.

UPDATE: My kids are getting older and screens are permeating their world. I do still limit their time on a screen….I do not want the extra hours of summer to be filled with mindless screen time.  Here’s how we are doing summer screentime now.

6. My kids will also be seeing me read more, lots more. 

During the school year, I read mostly after my kids are in bed.  But this summer–watch out!  I am going to be reading ALL THE TIME.  Kids who see their parents reading understand that reading is FUN and something many people CHOOSE to do. Modeling a behavior is very powerful!!

7. Enjoying our old favorites

We have some long standing reading resources that still make our list!

Sparkle Stories This is an amazing resource that offers audio stories for children and their families. We have been Sparklers for about 9 years now and continue to love every minute of it. Sparkle stories offers both a podcast and a subscription audio story series. The stories are fun and engaging, yet bring up big ideas that all families can be relate to.

They are so delightful and inspiring and perfect for toddlers to school-aged children. Life lessons are subtly woven in. I even get great parenting advice from them! We listen in the car, around the weekend breakfast table, on our Ipods for quiet time–they are fantastic.

Cricket Publishing I had a subscription to Cricket magazine when I was a kid and have very fond memories of it. The anticipation of waiting for my monthly issue is such a sweet memory. The publishers of Cricket have since expanded and have magazines for children of all ages.

My son received a subscription to Babybug magazine when he was 1 and we have been subscribers ever since. The magazines are ad free and full of high quality stories, poems and activities. Currently we subscribe to Spider and Dig and purchase countless single issues of Cobblestone and Faces. These are keepers–we have a stack in the bathroom, bring them in the car and share them with friends.

I will still be keeping up with some of my old tricks and may add a basket of books outside!!

We have no hammock worthy trees in our yard, so I’m thinking about getting this!

How will you be encouraging your kids to read this summer?? I’d love to hear!!

Need more ideas to encourage reading?

Here are some  great ideas from a kid who LOVES to read.

Have a reluctant reader? These ideas will surely help.

Try giving your kids an allowance – for BOOKS!






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  1. Amanda Bridges says:

    You are so awesome! We spend lots of time at the library in the summer. Amelia does lego club, science club, and reader’s theater (the kids put on a play, this year it’s “Mary Poppins”). They have almost completed the summer reading program after only a week. You know Amelia would live at the library if that was possible. I am also forcing her to be outdoors and socialize at day camp every day. Andrew is doing MCS summer enrichment on Mondays and space camp on Wednesdays. We are spending lots of time in the backyard just being kids, too.

  2. lumina Gershfield says:

    I love remembering that reading in front of them is modeling for them to read, so I don’t have to feel guilty when I do it! Thanks!