It’s that time of year again when many of us have finished up our lessons and the slower summer months begin. Whether you take the summer off fully, partly, or not at all, it can still be a great season for reading. There’s just something about a warm, lazy summer day that feels perfect for grabbing a cool beverage, sitting out on the porch swing, and reading a book. If you are taking the summer off, engaging your children in a summer reading program can help reduce summer learning loss. We all know that the last thing we want is to follow a wonderful summer with the frustration of learning loss at the beginning of the semester.
While reading won’t necessarily help your kids retain the equations and formulas they learned over the last semester, it can help keep their minds active. Summer learning loss statistics have shown that merely engaging the mind can greatly reduce summer slide. Sometimes, though, kids need a little incentive to read — especially if they aren’t natural book lovers themselves! Thankfully, there are a number of summer reading programs available with fantastic rewards. Here are our top ten!
Our 10 Favorite FREE Summer Reading Programs
Summer reading programs were something I eagerly anticipated every year as a kid, almost as much as summer break itself. Reading challenges are a timeless incentive which still continues to draw readers of all ages. Summer is slow and filled with possibilities, which makes it all the more exciting to consider picking up a new book without any constraints from time or schoolwork. Several businesses host their own annual summer learning programs, and we want to make sure you know about them. Perhaps you already know about these, or maybe you only recognize one. Either way, we’ve looked into each of these programs to share with you what they offer in addition to what they require.
First things first, though, we are hosting our own summer reading challenge this year! With fun printables for reading charts, award tickets, bookmarks, and a certificate, this challenge is sure to keep your kiddos turning the pages this summer!
- Barnes and Noble Summer Reading. Could Barnes and Noble even call themselves a bookstore without offering a summer reading program? Their summer challenge is open until August 31, 2019. If your kids read eight books and record them in the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Journal, they can pick a free book at the store from the list of titles in the back of the journal! Prizes are exclusively for children in elementary grades.
- Amazon Summer Reading Challenge. If you have an Amazon pop-up store near you, they offer a free book to any elementary and middle school children who read eight books and turn in their list by September 10, 2019.
- Scholastic Summer Read-A-Palooza. Kids can track reading minutes to earn digital prizes through September 6, 2019. Further, the reading minutes help Scholastic donate books to kids with limited or zero access to books.
- TD Bank Summer Reading Program. Your kids could earn $10 for reading 10 books! When children bring in their filled-out form, TD Bank will deposit the $10 into a Young Saver Account. Parents must open an account for this program, and the details may vary for the 2019 season.
- DOGOBooks Summer Reading Program. This website is all about kids sharing book reviews! The site encourages kids to submit online reviews to share great books with other kids. The top 10 reviewers during the summer program will win free books, while the following 25 reviewers will be given $10 gift cards! It’s not only a great way for kids to find new books, but it also encourages reading and writing skills.
- Showcase Cinemas Bookworm Wednesdays. I love this program because it combines reading with a trip to the movie theater! If your children bring in a completed book report form from their website to a participating box office, they offer free select movies on Wednesdays at 9am or 10am, dependent on location. This program continues through July 29. Be sure to check their website for 2019 details.
- Chuck E. Cheese’s Reading Rewards Calendar. This isn’t merely a summer program! If your kids bring in a full Reading Rewards Calendar from the website, they will be rewarded with 10 free game tokens! Your kids can continue completing and submitting the calendars through December of 2019.
- Applebee’s Bookworm Reading Club Program. This program offers free food, and what could be better? If your kids, ages 10 or younger, record at least 10 or more finished books on their “Bookworm Club” card, they will earn a free kid’s meal at Applebees. Note: Children must be accompanied by an adult making a purchase.
- Reading Rewards. This website allows you to customize a reading program for your kids by setting your own goals, rewards, and prizes. Your kids will be able to “purchase” prizes in the store created just by you, and they can be anything — a chore-free day, a movie night, an ice cream cone, and so on.
- Sync Audiobooks Summer Program for Teens. This program is unique when compared to the rest! It’s a great incentive specifically for teens and audiobooks. With this program, your teens will get two free audiobooks each week through the end of July!
10 Books to Start Your Summer Challenge
Are you ready to start reading? Perhaps you’ve already downloaded our printables or signed up for one of these ten programs. On the other hand, perhaps you aren’t sure where to begin. There are thousands of titles on the market, and even browsing Goodreads can be overwhelming when you’re trying to find just one good book! Sometimes, you may even find yourself spending more time looking for a book than actually reading.
To help, here are five of our favorite titles for each age range. These classics are bound to engage your kids while also filling their minds and hearts!
5 Book Recommendations for Elementary Students
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
“The plot centers around Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as they were a selfish, neglectful and pleasure-seeking couple. Mary is given to the care of her uncle Archibald Craven, whom she has never met. She travels to his home, Misselthwaite Manor located in the gloomy Yorkshire, a vast change from the sunny and warm climate she was used to. When she arrives, she is rude, stubborn, and given to stormy temper tantrums. However, her nature undergoes a gradual transformation when she learns of the tragedies that have befallen her strict and disciplinarian uncle whom she earlier feared and despised. Once when he’s away from home, Mary discovers a charming walled garden which is always kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle’s vast mansion. The kindly servants ignore her queries or pretend they haven’t heard, spiking Mary’s curiosity.” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.
“As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she’ll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anyone else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables.” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
“It was a dark and stormy night. Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
‘Black Beauty was written in 1877 and was subtitled “The Autobiography of a Horse.” It quickly became known as the best-loved animal story. In addition to this, the book achieved its aim to “induce kindness, sympathy and an understanding treatment of horses.” The story was used first by George Angell, founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and then by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. At a time when horses were relied upon for transport, the horse was the animal most likely to be abused. This book, by telling the story through the eyes of the animal, changed people’s attitudes.’ (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.
“Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse that lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
5 Book Recommendations for Middle & High School Students
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
“Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.
“The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
“In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages, it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.
From Sauron’s fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.
When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.” (Synopsis taken from Goodreads.)
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
“Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel describes the passionate love between the courageous orphan Jane Eyre and the brilliant, brooding, and domineering Rochester. The loneliness and cruelty of Jane’s childhood strengthen her natural independence and spirit, which prove invaluable when she takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But after she falls in love with her sardonic employer, her discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice. Ever since its publication in 1847, Jane Eyre has enthralled every kind of reader, from the most critical and cultivated to the youngest and most unabashedly romantic. It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and as a moving and unforgettable portrayal of a woman’s quest for self-respect.” (Synopsis taken from Penguin Random House.)
Courtney Newman is a homeschool graduate, a writer, and a content marketer. Other than writing, her favorite hobbies include reading, visiting the beach, and spending time with her husband and pets.