Twin Cities Summer Reading Programs – 2020

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.

We are updating 2020 library programs as they come in:

Don’t forget to join our own Bookhounds Book Club. Gianna shares books and introduces local authors.

Read Aloud: Go on a Family Adventure Without Leaving Your House

8 Places to Find Books Without Leaving Home

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Audible Stories.
    Speaking of free audiobooks, take advantage of Audible Stories as long as schools are closed. Free books for kids to stream.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

Bookawocky is the summer reading program that most of the MELSA libraries use. This is where you can find links to the various programs each library is offering. Generally, the programs consist of library events, book recommendations and other incentives to read. If your library is not listed below, check the Bookawocky link.

Most of the libraries publish their summer program information in May. I won’t be surprised if 2020 information comes in later than usual as we are all waiting to see how our summer will be shaping up, but I trust they will offer something, even if just online.

Bookawocky Summer Reading Program

Roseville library

  1. Anoka County Library: 2020 info coming
  2. Carver County Library: The Story of Summer Reading Program runs from June 1 through August 15, 2020.
  3. Dakota County Library: 2020 info coming
  4. Ramsey County Library: 2020 info coming.
  5. Hennepin County Library: 2020 info coming. While you wait, join the Great Friends Read Together – reading The Secret Garden.
  6. Saint Paul Public Library: 2020 info coming. While you wait, join One Book, One Minnesota – reading Because of Winn Dixie, by Minnesota’s own Kate DiCamillo.
  7. Scott County Library: Get started early with a Spring Reading challenge: March 26 – May 31, 2020. Then jump into Summer Reading beginning June 6th.
  8. Washington County Library: 2020 info coming
Summer Reading Programs through MELSA libraries

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: 2020 info coming, but until April 25th, kids can design a bookmark to participate in the Summer Reading Art Contest.\
  • Wild Rumpus Books: In 2019, Wild Rumpus offered a downloadable reading challenge sheet. Kids who filled out every square could get a $5.00 coupon. Stay tuned for 2020.

*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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dr. Seuss Word Challenge
    Keep track of words read with the Word-Counter-Upper to help reach the combined goal of 20 million word. Enter to win prizes. (Note: When signing up, make sure you put in an adult birth year and not your kid’s birth year, or it will not let you sign up at that time. After making this mistake, I came back a day later and was able to try again.)
  • 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 Bookit Summer Reading
    To help increase reading time during the summer months, parents can sign up to receive weekly emails with summer reading activities. 2020 details are coming, but you can sign up for emails now.
  • 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. The 2020 lineup has not been announced yet.
  • Minnesota State Fair
    Don’t forget to finish off your summer of reading at the fair with Read and Ride Day, which is Wednesday, September 2, 2020.
  • 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.
Chart summer reading in a reading log

Amazon affiliate link

*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. 



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