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.
Twin Cities Libraries Offering A Free Summer Reading Program
It would be particularly fun to try to visit as many different libraries as possible during the summer. You could even collect autographs from the librarians you meet. Use our list of 101 Twin Cities Libraries: Mapped to explore the Twin Cities.
Library: Anoka County Libraries
Ages: All ages.
Dates: June 1st through August 13, 2023.
Details: Either ask your librarian for a paper tracker, or you can use the FREE Beanstalk app, where you and your kids can track their reading, compete with friends and family, read down fines and earn special activity badges for chances to win prizes.
Library: Carver County Libraries
Ages: Kids Birth-Age 11; Teens 12-18.
Dates: June 1 through August 12, 2023.
Details: Pick up paper forms from a librarian beginning June 1st, or use Beanstalk. In person activities will include live performances, book clubs, storytimes and storywalks, STEM activities and art programs. Kids who complete at least 5 activities can win a book or other prizes.
Library: Dakota County Libraries
Ages: Pre-Readers: Birth–age 4; Readers: Grades K–5; Teens: Grades 6–12.
Dates: Begins June 12th with a Kick-Off at Heritage Library from 10am-2pm.
Details: Pick up an age-appropriate free book and activity log of free things to do: like get personalized reading suggestions from Book Match and attend free, family-friendly programs at your Dakota branches. There are even resources specifically for English language learners to increase their fluency.
Library: Ramsey County Libraries
Ages: Children of all ages.
Dates: Runs June 1-August 5, 2023 with a variety of events at separate branches.
Details: Attend a kick-off event to grab some summer reading supplies or get the Beanstack Tracker app, join fun activities and pick out your free participation book. We’ve added these events to our calendar or search Ramsey County Libraries events, use the Program dropdown menu and choose “Summer Reading Program”.
Library: Saint Paul Public Libraries
Dates: Kickoff is June 17, 2023; 10am-2pm at George Latimer Central Library.
Details: Summer Spark includes library events and activities, create a challenge goal and visit the library to celebrate accomplishments. Kids get a free book when they stop by a St. Paul Library branch to sign up.
Library: Scott County Libraries
Ages: Birth to 18.
Dates: June 1, 2023 – August 26, 2023
Details: Visit your favorite branch to pick up a free starter kit. Kids will get a reading log, booklists and activities. In person programs will be offered throughout the summer and kids can check out Take Home Play Kits or tabletop games. For kids who need extra practice Reading Boost packets will help support literacy development and comprehension.
Library: Washington County Libraries
Ages: Children, teens, and adults.
Dates: June 1, 2023 through August
Details: Summer Reading program for kids ages birth through age 11 (more programs for teens & adults as well). Pick up a game card at your favorite branch beginning June 1st.
Library: Hennepin County Libraries
Ages: Youth of all ages.
Dates: All Summer
Details: Unstructured options that encourage summer learning, along with a series of summer learning events at different branches.
Local Book Stores with a Summer Reading Challenge
Barnes & Noble Store Locations in the Twin Cities
Ages: Kids grades 1-6.
Dates: July 1, 2023 – August 31, 2023
Details: Kids participating in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program read any eight books over the summer, record them in the journal that they can print here, and earn a free book from among 31 popular titles.
Half-Price Books Twin Cities Locations
Dates: Register now. Runs June 1 through July 31, 2023.
Details: Summer Reading Camp includes printables, book recommendations and craft and activity ideas by themes:
Kids can register for the summer reading program to get reading lists and fun activities all summer long. Stop by a Half-Price Books locations to pick up a camper’s Reward Map and learn how to earn $5 Bookworm Bucks in June and July.
891 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105
Ages: Anyone (though only kids and teens will get prizes)!.
Dates: June 4, 2023 – September 4, 2023
Details: Red Balloon will have celebratory events all summer. Readers can pick up a bingo sheet. Kids who get a bingo can visit the Red Balloon treasure chest to select a special prize. Kids who get a blackout earn a prize back full of coupons to Grand Avenue businesses. Adults have to get a blackout to win a prize – a free advanced reader’s copy of a book and a chance to win a gift card. Learn more here.
3311 County Rd 101 Suite 4, Wayzata, MN 55391
Dates: Summer 2023
Details: Summer reading bingo cards can be picked up in the store. They will also have a Where’s Waldo challenge in July. Learn more here.
Ages: Anyone (though only kids and teens will get prizes)!.
Dates: Summer 2023 – Turn in Your Bingo Sheet between August 15-31, 2023 to receive a prize.
Details: This year’s summer reading challenge is a bingo game. Pick up your sheet in store, get four in a row to get a $5 store credit or full black out to get a $20 store credit and a commemorative pin. Learn more here.
Got a Reason to Run to Wisconsin?
- Books A Million Summer Reading Adventure. 2023’s ambassador is Christopher Paolini! Kids can choose and read 4 books from BAM’s Summer Reading Adventure section recommended summer reading list, record them in the summer reading adventure log book and earn a free pencil pouch. (Participation in this program will require a Road Trip to Eau Claire to pick up your prize.)
*Local, in this article, simply means that there is a physical bookstore located in or near the Twin Cities.
Online Programs To Encourage Reading
Print a Summer Reading Tracker – Amusement Park coloring poster. Plus get booklists and activity ideas.
Dates: In 2022, Summer Reading Program Packs were released in three batches and sold out quickly. I’m not sure if they will offer this very popular deal again. 2023 TBA.
Details: Choose books from The Good and The Beautiful book list. Kids can earn a free book after reading 5 books. The physical pack with the FREE book sells out VERY fast and you will need to pay shipping ($1.49) to receive a summer reading program pack, which includes a free book, a create-your-own jungle scene and 2 bookmarks.
If you missed it, print a free PDF booklist.
Sign up for the kids club to get monthly updates, activities, events and sweepstakes. Kids can print a Junie B. Jones Kids Reading Club Log here. This includes games and activity sheets to guide your child through the Junie B. Jones series.
Registration: Open Now.
Details: Kolbe Academy is a Catholic homeschool provider and online school. Parents can sign up to receive a free printable summer reading list, including 4 ages groups ranging from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The reading list includes some religious books and stories bout saints, but is mostly universally appropriate. Using that list, families can also sign up for the free Summer Reading Challenge and receive prizes for reaching certain levels.
Details: Lu & Bean Read‘s Summer Book Hunt Checklists are available to print. The Summer Book Scavenger Hunt let’s kids hunt for and read books by theme and the Summer Book Treasure Hunt encourages kids to dig up treasures that have one book awards. Submit a list with 15 reads and kids can receive Lu and Bean Read swag.
Dates: Any time.
Details: This is one of my favorites, 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.
Dates: June, July & August
Details: To help increase reading time during the summer months, parents can sign up to receive weekly emails with summer reading activities. Set a monthly reading goal and track daily progress. Kids can earn a free Personal Pan Pizza.
Dates: Any time.
Details: 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, such as movie night or 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.
Dates: May 4 – September 7, 2023.
Details: The Summer Zone in the FREE Scholastic Home Base app offers stories, characters, games, and a safe community of readers to help keep up their reading streak all summer.
This was once my favorite free program. However, it is now a subscription program: After the first free month, the subscription costs $49.99/year for 1 child or $79.99/year for up to 5 children.
Other Incentives for Reading in the Summer:
- Starfall is an educational website that has been around a since before my teen was a baby. Other reading sites come and go, but this one remains the best in my opinion. It is like getting mini reading classes in the form of fun activities and short stories. It has a heavy focus on early reading skills, including letters and letter sounds. The website is free, but you can unlock extras with a membership.
- 20 Minutes Reading? 20 Easy Strategies. Here, I’ve shared ways to sneak reading into our busy lives. I didn’t share Starfall on that list, but I would count 20 minutes of following the guided program as 20 minutes of reading.
- St. Paul Saints Reading Tree. Arrive early (by 12:45pm) for Sunday afternoon games to have a story time with players and local authors in right field. It usually starts at 1:10pm and goes until 1:30pm. Learn more and find upcoming dates here.
- Top Kids Storytimes in the Twin Cities.
8 Places to Find Free Books without Leaving Your Home:
- Your local library. All the Twin Cities libraries now use the Libby App for patrons to access books to use with Kindle or Audio Books
- BookFlix. Also accessed through any metro library. This is a fun app to use with kids learning reading comprehension.
- Amazon. Amazon has tons of free books. You just have to sift through them to find the good ones.
- Spotify. The same deal goes for Spotify. They have always offered some audio books and recently added an audio book section. However, most of their books are offered at somewhat prohibitive prices and offerings are difficult to navigate.
- Project Gutenberg. The definitive place to find books in the public domain is Project Gutenberg.
- LibriVox. Where Project Gutenberg is perfect for e-books in the public domain, Librivox does the same with audiobooks. The books are read by volunteers, so they are hit and miss, but the best books usually have more than one option.
- YouTube. YouTube is my go-to when I want to preview a picture book before buying it. Just google the name of a picture book and you can usually find someone reading it.
- Ebooks Minnesota. Find books by local authors. This is another offering through your library.