Where do your kids fall in the summer reading spectrum? Whether they love to read or hate it or are somewhere in between, there is probably a program out there for them. If they are ambitious, they can participate in several. There is no rule that kids can’t use the same books for several programs.
A couple years ago, I did some research on the reality of the income-based achievement gap and how parents can Increase their Child’s Chances in School with a few Simple, Budget-Friendly Habits. Summer reading is another place where the achievement gap grows. However, the fix is offering your kids easy access to a lot of books and empowering them to select their own reading materials. This is where summer reading programs can come in handy.
Get started planning your best summer!
Everything under the sun you need to know about family fun this summer in the Twin Cities. Beat boredom and fill your long school break days exploring the best the Twin Cities has to offer in the way of parks, swim spots, community entertainment and local festivals with our Ultimate Summer Events Guide.
Enter our Summer to Remember Family Adventure!
FFTC is taking back the year of 2020 starting NOW! We invite you to help us make a “Summer to Remember” with our fun family challenge. Enter your adventures each week to win prizes from our fantastic partners: Wheel Fun Rentals, Kerfoot Canopy Tours, Snapology, and SweetSpot Baseball. Each week is a new opportunity to win! Enter 6 adventures to be entered into our grand prize drawing from Kerfoot Canopy Tours: a family pack worth worth $360.Sign up at this link: https://www.familyfuntwincities.com/summer-to-remember-adventure/
Don’t forget to join our own Bookhounds Book Club. Gianna shares books and introduces local authors.
8 Places to Find Books Without Leaving Home
- Your Own Library
All of the metro-area libraries are still offering their online catalogs and many have begun curbside pick up. Check in with your own library to see what they offer. Even with the increase in traffic, I have not had problems finding something on my list available to download immediately.
- Sync Audiobook Program for Teens
This free summer audiobook program for teens begins April 30, 2020 and gives away two complete audiobook downloads each week.
- Audible Stories.
Speaking of free audiobooks, take advantage of Audible Stories as long as schools are closed. Free books for kids to stream.
- Free Kindle Books
The Website Ben & Me has a list of 175 Free Kids books for Kindle. Not all of these are still available, but a great deal of them are and these are quality books – not the poorly written self-published freebies.
- Free Public Domain Classics
The best public domain classics come from Project Gutenberg. If it was published before 1924, it is likely on this extensive site. You can download to your Kindle or your computer and sometimes there are audios available.
- Picture Books Read Aloud
When I want to preview a picture book before deciding whether to buy, I go to YouTube. Someone has probably read it aloud – sometimes even the author. Many publishers have loosened sharing restrictions during quarantine. Libraries are getting in on the act and putting up temporary story hours, but don’t delay on library story times because most have a limited time before they are removed to respect copyrights.
- A Mix Bag of Audio Books – Worth Checking Out
If you have a Spotify account, I have had good luck finding audios of books here. Some of the narrators are better than others and you need to remember to turn off “Shuffle Play” or it will bounce around chapters out of order. You may also find podcasts reading or sharing insights into the books you are looking for. I recommend previewing these on your own though because some are not family friendly even when they are sharing kids books. This is also my favorite place to find poetry read aloud often by the poet.
- Your Own Bookshelves
I don’t know about you, but my book-buying habit exceeds my reading. I have more books in my to-read pile than I’d like to admit. I’m trying to match these up with my audio downloads so I can go back and forth between reading and listening depending on the situation.
Twin Cities Library Summer Reading Program
- Anoka County Library: Summer Adventure, June 1 through August 15, 2020.
- Carver County Library: The Story of Summer Reading Program, June 1 through August 15, 2020.
- Dakota County Library: Summer Discovery 2020, June 1 through July 31, 2020.
- Ramsey County Library: Summer Break at Home, June 8 through August 15, 2020.
- Hennepin County Library: Summer Learning book suggestions. Even though it is done, you can still use the Great Friends Read Together to read The Secret Garden.
- Saint Paul Public Library: Join in the fun by attending free virtual programs at your library and earning prizes by completing reading and activity challenges! Kids and teens can earn book prizes, stickers and journals. Participants can pick up a free book. July 1 – August 31, 2020. For ages 0-18.
- Scott County Library: Summer Spotlight June 6 though September 5, 2020.
- Washington County Library: Summer Adventure, June 15 through August 15, 2020. Get started by downloading a game card.
Summer Reading Programs at Local* Book Stores
- Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program: Kids can earn a free book by reading eight books over the summer.
- Half Price Books Feed Your Brain: Kids can log their reading minutes. Once they reach 300 minutes they can earn “bookworm bucks”.
- Red Balloon Summer Reading Bingo: Check out this list of new books on the Red Balloon’s shelves this year.
- Wild Rumpus Books: Download a Summer Reading Journal. After the journal is complete, post a photo of the cover on social media and tag Wild Rumpus, or email a photo to them by Labor Day for a prize.
*Local, in this article, simply means that there is a physical bookstore located in the Twin Cities.
Online Summer Reading Programs
- MENSA Excellence in Reading Program
This is my new favorite, although it is not technically a summer reading program. MENSA offers printable reading lists for kids in 4 proficiency categories ranging from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Once a child has completed every book on the list, they can mail in the form to get a certificate and t-shirt. I really love the book selections and want to make this a goal, even though it is unlikely the older kids could finish in a summer.
- Books A Million
Summer Reading Adventure. This year, Dav Pilkey is the Summer Reading Ambassador. Read 4 books from their recommended summer reading list for a free Dog Man baseball cap.
- Brightly Summer Reading Fun for Tweens
This is more of a summer reading aid than a summer reading program, but it is a nice tool to have. Brightly (which is part of Penguin Random House) offers reading lists, tips, activities and a Summer Reading Challenge to download. This year, it is a Summer Reading Bingo Card.
- DOGO Books Summer Reading
Like last year, the 2020 program offers summer practice in both reading and writing. Kids can read books and write reviews. The more reviews a child writes, the more they increase their odds of winning a prize.
- Good Reads 2020 Reading Challenge Shelf
This list is best for teens and adults who read because they love it. However, there are at least two books on this list that would be fun family read-alouds. If you are the target of this challenge, its likely you’ll have most of these books on your “to read” or “already read” lists. How many can you share this summer.
- Lu & Bean Read – Summer Book Hunts
Lu & Bean Read‘s 2017 Summer Book Hunt Checklists are still available to download. I don’t believe they are still offering prizes. However, the Scavenger Hunt encourages kids to find and read books about summer (ie: a book about the sun); and the Treasure Hunt challenges kids to search out award winning books.
- Pizza Hut Camp Bookit Summer Reading
To help increase reading time during the summer months, parents can sign up to receive weekly emails with summer reading activities. Set monthly goals and track daily progress. Kids can earn a free Personal Pan Pizza.
- Reading Rewards
This is a fun idea. Parents set up an account where kids can log their reading. The more they read, the more RR miles they collect. Parents create a “store” where kids can cash in their miles for rewards. These can be anything the parent wants – movie night, family game nights. Maybe you could even have a really big reward for a big goal, like, “If you read 10,000 books this summer, you can earn a puppy” or whatever.
- Scholastic Summer Read-A-Palooza
This program runs May 4 to September 4, 2020! Kids can earn rewards by logging reading minutes.
- Sylvan Book Adventure
I believe this was my favorite free program. However, it is now a subscription program: After the first free month, the subscription costs $43.74/year for 1 child or $74.98/year for up to 5 children. This is a little steep in my opinion, but may be worth it for many parents because of the extra activities, quizzes and reporting that come with it.
Other Incentives for Reading in the Summer:
- Chuck E. Cheese
Print off the Reading Rewards Calendar, mark off “every day that your kids is awesome” and your kid gets 10 free tokens. I guess the parent gets to decide what constitutes “awesome”. There are other rewards calendars in this program, too.
- Thursday Rockin Readers at Nicollet Commons
On Thursdays, local principals stop by for a story time before a family-friendly concert. These have not been completely cancelled yet for 2020, but they are indefinitely postponed as 6/10/20.
Minnesota State Fair
Don’t forget to finish off your summer of reading at the fair with Read and Ride Day. The State Fair has been cancelled for 2020. Check back in 2021.
- Reading Logs
For kids who like to write it all down, pick up a reading log or journal, like the one pictured below from Amazon.
*Amazon links are affiliate links and Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on any purchases through our site.
We will keep our eyes open and add on to this list if we find other programs.