Free Summer Reading Programs for Kids

When I think back to summertime when I was young, I remember walking to the library with my best friend and wandering the aisles. We would go up there 2 or 3 times per week to see what newly released books had been added, we made lists of books we wanted to read and which ones we had already read, and we looked for the books with the best covers. We would then check out our books, then lay out on a blanket in the sun - which was rare in Western Washington - and read our books and discuss which ones we liked best.

summer reading programs kids

Not every child has the same love of books as I did and most summers are a bit busier nowdays. Summertime gets busy with camps, sports, vacations, and all those other fun activities. Reading is important though - it helps maintain learning during school breaks and it encourages imagination in children.

Summer reading programs are fun ways to keep children reading during their school break. Following is a list of Summer Reading Programs that kids can join. They can earn free books, small prizes and play games online!

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading - June  With this program, you download the reading journal provided on the website (click here).  Your child needs to fill in answers about 4 books in the reading journal, then go to your local Barnes & Noble store to pick out a free book from their Summer Reading Selection list.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge - May 9th On this website, your child can log their reading minutes on their way to being a reading superhero. They earn virtual prizes, books, and can play games online. There is a section of reading lists for different ages of children as well. My 11 year old loved going onto the website every day and updating her minutes, playing games, and finding new book series to read.

Chuck E Cheese - Year Round There are reward calendars for 15 different categories.  They have a Reading Reward chart for the kids to mark off and bring in for free tokens.  You are required to buy food with this reward system.  This is a great way to get free tokens if you were already going to spend a fun day at Chuck E Cheese.

Local Library! Late May One of the best resources for summer reading programs is your local library. Each library has a different theme or program set up.  We have lived in 3 different library districts in two different states and loved every one of the programs offered. Usually they have different levels of prizes leading up to the big prize at the end of the summer. Definitely check your local library for information. They generally provide summer activities for kids as well as the summer reading program.

Sylvan Book Adventure -  Ongoing Your child can search through 8,000 book titles online, read the books at home, then log in to take a quiz and earn points toward prizes. There are also online games they can play as well as the quizzes. Don't forget to check out the suggested reading list for different topics and ages.

Local Banks - Some banks/credit unions have started a summer reading program for kids. If children read a certain amount of hours or books, they can earn money that will go into a child savings account. Check to see if any of your local banks or credit unions are participating!

Half Price Books - June & July Feed Your Brain by reading 300 minutes, then take their reading log into a local store to exchange to Bookworm Bucks. Check to see if there is a local store near you! and PBS Kids Summer Reading Adventures - May This is not a program where the kids earn prizes from a company. and PBS have teamed up to supply you with a 10 week reading camp pack. Each week has a theme, and there are printables and activity ideas included for each theme. Craft ideas, games, hands on fun learning, mazes and writing helps are all available.

Pizza Hut Book It - Late May The website has quite a few resources for reading during the summer - a reading log, a calendar with reading and writing prompts, reading plans, and activities. They do not have the summer reward program though that they have had in the past.

Make Your Own Program - This one can be as easy or difficult as your have time (and energy) for. You can sit down as a family and decide on some incentives or rewards. They can be small rewards for a good week or reading and bigger for the end of summer. Here are some ideas for rewards:

  • trip to get ice cream
  • Redbox movie rental
  • visit the dollar store
  • playdate at the park
  • parent and child date
To keep track of time read, you can design your own (as simple as check marks on a calendar every day with a prize listed at the end of the row, or fill in a bubble to earn different treats.), or you can print out one found online. Here is a link to a Free Printable Summer Reading Chart that I created.

summer reading programs kids

I hope your kids have a fun summer full of reading adventures and some neat prizes. I'd love to know which programs you end up doing and which great free books they end up getting!

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Over the past few years, my kids have gotten free copies of Encyclopedia Brown, Curious George, Bunnicula, Harry Potter, Spy School, and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Some of these have become favorites and have been read many times. Our local library has an adult reading program too and I won a Williams-Sonoma Cookbook that I absolutely love.

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