When I decided my kids needed a little more incentive to read than just the local library’s summer reading program (or my nagging), I created the Brunelli family summer reading challenge. And I was pleasantly surprised (actually more like shocked) by the more than 4,000 pages read by my three kids during the course of our summer reading program.
The basic goal of my summer reading program was to inspire more reading by rewarding reading with low- (or no-) cost prizes and by using the competitive spirit among siblings.
I wanted the kids to sharpen their reading skills and learn about topics they are interested in-- without me having to nag them to read. I wanted them to want to pick up a book while I was working. Also I didn’t want their interest in this summer reading program to fizzle midsummer. And I didn’t want anyone who fell behind to get totally discouraged and give up.
I know that’s a lot to want out of a summer reading program. And on top of that, I didn’t want it to be too difficult for me to keep track of. The idea was to keep the kids busy reading while I worked at home, so I didn’t want anything that would take a lot of my time to administer. Our summer reading program was a little more time-intensive for me than I had hoped, but in the end it was worth it.
How I Did It:
You could do a similar summer reading program, making it more or less complicated than mine.
- I created a spreadsheet with a column for the weeks of the summer and a row across the top with each child’s name.
- I created prize card with rewards like:
- Get out of dishes free
- 30 minutes computer, Wii or TV time during "non-electronic time"
- 1 song from iTunes
- Trip to the dog park (Mom and Dad, but not the pooch, grew weary of this one!)
- Stay up late
- Sleep in late
- Kids earn one point for each page read. We entered the number of pages read by each kid every few days. (It was an honor system, but on a separate page I kept track of the titles and the last page read to head off any exaggerations or confusion.) Kids could also earn bonus points when they finished a book, worked on summer homework or listened to an audiobook.
- On Sundays we awarded first- and second-place prizes to the kids who had the most points, letting them choose from the prize cards. And if everyone had earned at least 150 points, we went out for ice cream.
- I set both short- and long-term prizes to keep interest in the program from waning midsummer. I awarded weekly, monthly and a grand prize. The monthly prizes were drawings for toys, gift cards and other item valued at about $10. Kids earned entries into the drawings when they read 100 pages or finished a book. So even the third place weekly winner, four weeks running had a shot at the monthly prize.
- The person with the most points at the end of the summer won a cash prize. And we all ordered pizza and celebrated ourselves too.
The End Result:
My most "reluctant reader" won the grand prize and--I don't believe by coincidence--made significant academic strides in the following school year. The family's third place reader, the only one who entered the local library's summer reading program, won museum tickets by being a top reader at our branch.