Our Summer Reading Chart

Back in March, I decided to encourage the children to read more.  I started my own incentive program using a Reading Chart.  I printed out a calender for each child and they began logging their minutes.  For every 300 minutes of reading they earned $5 at Books-A-Million.  When they got to 1,200 minutes each – or $20 – we went to the store and they were able to choose new books to read.  My son bought the Chronicles of Narnia series – which I giggled inside knowing that I was planning to buy these this fall for homeschooling anyhow – so there was no loss for me 🙂 and Alexis went for some Amelia Bedelia books.  Here’s how our charting looked then:

I could not believe how badly my children wanted to read.  They would take books outside and read so long I’d actually have to say “you need to do something active kids!  Why don’t you take a break from reading and go swing or ride your bike lol!”  Also, everywhere we go my son has been tucking his books under his arm.  He can’t leave home without it.  He is reading in the car and keeping track of his minutes – he even asked if he could bring his book into the grocery store…ummmm…no. lol!

After our second trip to Books-A-Million, I saw how beautifully this was working so I thought I’d get a little more creative with our chart.  I decided to make it look a little like the Candy Land game – only minus the candy!   My son is earning stars and my daughter is earning smiley faces!

Now I must admit, this has brought out a competitive spirit in my kids that is not always beneficial.  It has called for some grace on the part of my son towards his sister who is having trouble keeping up with him.  She got a little frustrated and I didn’t want her discouraged – so  sometimes we let her have a sticker after reading just 20 minutes.

My vision for the next reading chart is to make one that requires more teamwork.  I’m going to draw a gumball machine on a large poster board and allow them to each earn a smiley sticker for every 30 minutes of reading – when the gumball machine is full – we’ll go to Books-A-Million.  This will take teamwork and eliminate the competition that arose during this chart!   Live and learn right? 🙂

I encourage you not only to get your children into books this summer – but to take time out to read to them:

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
richer than I you can never be-
I had a Mother who read to me.

-from “The Reading Mother” by Stickland Gillilian
– found in Sally Clarkson’s book Educating the WholeHearted Child

Do you have a summer reading plan? Tell us about it!

Walk with the King,


  1. Alot of places do summer reading programs where prizes can be earned. Last year we did the program at 2 diffrent libraries. This year we are doing one at Barnes and Noble and Pottery Barn Kids.

  2. What a great idea. My son is too old to be tempted with charts and sticker (16) and my daughter whilst she loves stickers is only 3 so no where near independent reading. However, this is definitely an idea that I will implement when she is older. Cannot wait to “meet” your sister!

  3. Thank you for the ideas. I have been wondering how to get my 15 and 13 year old reading more. I also have a 6 year old who struggles with readng. He has aspergers and reading is tough for him. The game idea will work wonders and he will love the idea of going and picking out his own books. Thanks again. Have a blessed week.

  4. Love the game board idea. And I love the gumball team effort chart even better. I can picture them encouraging each other. Very creative. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Our local library offers a summer reading program for kids of all ages that gives prizes for meeting goals. Last year was the first year the library offered an adult summer reading program, which I didn’t participate in…but my boys love reading and look forward to the free meals, deserts, bookmarks, and bookbags -just to name a few of the incentives. As a teacher who sees lots of kids not into reading and how it affects them academically, I have always read to my boys…starting when they were in my belly. In fact, they won’t let me skip a night of reading before going to bed!! You’re never too old to be read to. And technology is so awesome…there are some free websites that read books for you. And don’t forget books on tape or cd. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’ve heard the kindle fire is awesome!! Happy reading!!

  6. This is a great idea!! I wish I had thought of something like this when my son was young. One thought – have you thought about the library vs bookstore?

    1. Ye s- we go to the library all the time – so that’s less special and less of an incentive. I am working on building them a nice library of books for their rooms – so I felt like these books would be special – they’d be the ones they chose to buy. Since I was planning to buy some anyhow it’s a win win – I get them to read more and then we buy books I was planning to buy (so far I’ve been able to guide them to good choices) – shhhhh don’t tell! 🙂

  7. I love the gum ball idea! I have 4 babies that are on different levels so the team work is going to be great! We go to the library all the time so the bookstore will be a reward! Thank you for sharing your fabulous ideas!

  8. Courtney, thanks for sharing your ideas- I love them. We do the local library incentive program each summer which logs their minutes… But I decided to step it up a bit for my 8 year old and also give her an incentive to help her reading comprehension… For every 5 book reports she turns in she’ll get to pick from our “prize box” which is full of $1 bin items and candy and I’ll be adding in bookstore gift cards, great America tickets, movie tickets, etc as the summer progresses and she turns in more book reports. I use “form” book reports her school uses which can be found at http://www.readwritethink.org. Tina

  9. Our school does a Summer Slide reading program that encourages the kids to read a minimum of 30 books over summer break. At the beginning of the school year, those kids who completed the program got a special pizza party with the principal. Our local library also does a summer reading program. Unfortunately, this doesn’t encourage my son to read. Maybe I’ll have to offer incentive of my own. I don’t understand why he doesn’t like to read. I LOVE to read. I have lots of books at home. I’m always taking him to Barnes and Noble with me. We can’t stop at the mall without making it into the bookstore 🙂

  10. All of my kids except one have loved to read since they were little. The one exception, my 8 yr old daughter, has always preferred art to anything else. So when she happened to come across a comic book at the library, she was hooked!! Now she is always scouring the library shelves for Pokemon comics, and I am thrilled. Comics are better than nothing, and I’m so glad she finally found her passion for reading.

  11. Our local Libraries have a summer reading activity. We partiipated last year and will do so again this year if offered. You had to read as many books as you could in a two month period, I believe. The more you read, the more incentives you received. T-shirts, toys, parties at the Aquarium. My girls enjoyed it so much. They can’t wait to get back to the library this summer!

  12. What a great idea!!! Two out of the three of my teens love to read. My middle did not like reading at all until she got her Kindle Fire. I plan on loading her up with books for over the summer and start magazine subscriptions for her. They all will participate in summer reading program at the libary and Barnes & Noble. Reading it such a wonderful thing, I gained my love for reading from my late Grandmother who was a remedial reading teacher. Seeing her teach others read helped me appreciate the gift of being able to read even more.

  13. Our library has a summer reading program and they give away great prizes to kids and adults. The whole family is on the reading program this summer in an effort to help my 6 yr old desire to read. I really like the chart though, this will be a helpful visual aside from the library tracking I online. Thanks!

  14. I tend to have a different reading plan each summer in order to get free stuff from the library. We will probably do something different this year. I have learned of other reading programs and did not know that Barnes and Noble had one. (Thanks!) We are trying to stay active this summer as well. Exercise in the morning and read in the afternoon.

  15. I have a brand new reader and would love to encourage him but without pressuring him. I love the gumball idea! I think mom might have to have one for read-alouds because we also have a 4 1/2 year old that loves to be read to.

  16. has anyone ever put together a list or know of one already, that has titles of books that are kid friendly? and by that i mean, books that are clean and free from junk. it seems so many books these days that are geared toward children are full of vampires, witchcraft and the like. i have 14 & 9 yr old girls and an 11 yr old boy. the 14 yr old loves to read but finding books that aren’t filled with sexual content or vampires is very hard to find. thanks for your help.

    1. You might try Ambleside Online. The curriculum link will take you to age levels, then you’ll scroll down to find the “free reading” lists.

    2. I’m 13, some good clean books I love are: War Horse, anything by Tricia Goyer, Newbery winning books, The Boy Who Dared (true story), The Hiding place (true story), 26 Women Heroes of WWII (true story)

    3. To Danyelle,
      I teach 5th grade at a Christian school. May I suggest these books…

      1. For your 14 year old girl: The Christy Miller Series & The Sierra Jensen Series by Robin Jones Gunn, a Christian author. My mom bought these books for me when I was in 7th/8th grade and they really had an impact on me – I loved reading them and couldn’t put them down (I wasn’t much of a reader at that time, until I read these). Also, the characters live out their Christian faith in real ways that are easy to relate to. Now, I have these books in my classroom (the ones I got from my mom!) and I love to see my girl students get hooked on them! I also got the librarian to get multiple sets in the library (elem. and middle school.)

      2. For your boy (or girl), perhaps the Left Behind series, though, I have not read these. Just a thought. Another suggestion could be the Manga Bible series (Japanese drawing style). These are the ones we have (it’s a series).

      I’m not sure if these are popular in America (I live in Asia), but ever since teachers got these for their classroom this year, the boys CANNOT put them down!! I need to get more sets!

  17. I have 2 who love to read and 1 who hates it. It is SO hard to motive him to read. Earning money to spend on more books won’t motivate him at all. Any ideas on how to motivate a kid like that? I think that money to spend on legos would motivate him but I just hate to do that. It is frustrating for me because he is a good reader, well above grade level. This is my kid who fights everything! I pray and pray that he will really give his heart to Jesus. He could do great things for Jesus or live a very sinful life. I never imagined parenting would be this hard. Maybe it’s good we don’t know beforehand because then we might not have kids! HA!

    1. OH girl – we all have one child that keeps us humble lol!!!

      I’m all for letting the incentive be legos. Also, maybe if he had a choice in a bookstore he might discover something he really enjoys reading and as a result – discover that there are interesting things to read out there…maybe he just hasn’t found his interests yet.

      For example if he’s really into sports – then maybe books about sports or with characters playing sports would interest him. My son loved Tim Tebow’s book. If he’s into legos – there are lego books – there’s some really neat ones that like this one: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lego-ideas-book-dorling-kindersley-publishing-staff/1100059986?ean=9780756686062
      It shows tons of ideas of things he can build with legos…

      I know my sister who homeschooled her 3 boys had one that did not like to read so she got him subscriptions to interesting magazines (actually she asked family members to buy them as birthday gifts so that was my gift to him for a few years 🙂 ) and he would read those which was better than nothing lol!!!

      Another way to spike interest is to read out loud to the kids. I read the first of a series out loud to both kids of The Sugar Creek Gang…then purchased the next 5 and let my son read them on his own. Reading it together helped spark his interest in the series and also helped me know how to discuss it with him since I had a feel for how the writer writes.

      Hope something here could help?

  18. Thank you for this! It is like you read my mind. I am going to get planning mine. I can not wait to see the ideas over the next 6 weeks. Bless you.

  19. Great idea, Courtney! I just may try this this summer to encourage my almost first-grade son to read more. He’s just learning how, so he’s proud of what he’s accomplished so far, but he still tends to like watching TV or playing a computer game more. Now I hope to challenge him with this idea.


    1. Hi Steph,
      My son is just ending 2nd grade. I was having the same problem for a little while when he was in 1st grade. We had gotten him a Nintendo DS and that’s all he wanted to do. We made a new rule that 30 minutes before his scheduled bedtime all electronics went off and he had 2 choices: either go to sleep or read. At first, he pushed back a little, but now he loves it and always chooses to read before going to sleep. Also, I remember I was struggling with books that were keeping his interest. Try the Flat Stanley series of books. Flat Stanley (if I remember right) is the character and he is in 1st grade.

  20. We will, for the 2nd time, be participating in our local library’s summer reading program which kicks off next week. The kids get reading logs, and log each book that they read. The library hands out tokens for each log turned in. For each log turned in the prize is a bit bigger, (at least it was last year). (tokens are for Dairy queen ice cream treats and meals). They also receive tickets to enter into drawing s of their choice. At the end of the program they have a prize drawing. Things that can be won are bikes, scooters, art kits, book sets, sports equipment, family night out, etc. The program is open for preschoolers-5th grade. Our state park (Makoshika) also has a summer program goin on, that my kids will be participating in. It doesnt really involve reading but its very educational. They will learn lots about science and even get to do a dinosaur dig (not a real one, the park rangers make one).

  21. Barnes & Noble has a free summer reading program.

    Read 8 books and then you get to pick out a FREE BOOK.

    You can pick the form up at B & N. If you don’t have one nearby, Google “kids summer reading program Barnes & Noble” and print off the reading journal.

  22. Pizza Hut has a reading program too, but it might be through the school year. In the end they get a personal sized pizza which was always a big hit for our children. As I remember they set their own goals.

    1. Phyllis, yes, pizza huts is only during the school year. If I understand correctly its just for the participating schools with the Book It program. The schools here do it, but where we lived last year they didnt. The teacher sets the “rules” for how many books need to be read until the student receives the certificate.

      1. It’s for homeschoolers, too, for those that are interested. We homeschool and were able to participate. It ran from Oct. to Mar.

  23. I love this idea!!! This will be the first summer that my son can read on his own. We will do the library’s reading program. We do it every year but this year it will be totally up to him not me reading to him. I’m excited to watch him flourish. I do need something during the school year though to motivate him so I love this. I’m also super excited to hear what your sister has to say. I am a bookworm and want my kids to grow up and become bookworms too.

  24. just today we were talking about our summer reading plan. I love the idea of earning money for books! My dilemma is always this when it comes to my reading rewards….how do you know they are actually reading? my son is a somewhat struggling reader. just the other day he sat down and read a 200 page book in 30 minutes. lol he insisted he read it but OBVIOUSLY we know he didn’t:)) Do you just go on the honor system or do you ask questions??

    ps. I was not questioning YOUR kids…just my own!!! lol

    1. Lol! Oh no 🙁 Well…I know they are reading because of 2 things – one I can see them reading 🙂 and two I like to have them tell me about what they are reading.

      Sally Clarkson’s book speaks of how it’s important for a child to not just read but then to narrate back to you what they read. For centuries people narrated stories to each other and orally passed them down in generations telling them again and again. So this is a good skill to have and a lost art these days but it plays into their comprehension abilities.

      So ask them to tell the story back to you in their own words, or to tell you 5 things they learned or something new they learned and if these are too hard, have them draw a picture that would illustrate their reading.

      Hope that helps!
      Courtney 🙂

  25. Courtney,
    I love this idea for encouraging the kids to read! We are participating in this year’s summer reading program at the local library. I am planning on having a pizza party for the kids at the end of the summer for their reading efforts. I made up a summer fun activity chart (can be found on my blog) and Tuesdays are reserved especially for reading but I will have a 30 minute period each afternoon for reading. It has been getting very hot here in Oklahoma so they do not mind the indoor activity 🙂

  26. Love the charts! My son absolutely loves reading, as do I. The rule in our house… 30 minutes prior to bedtime everything electronic goes off and my son has 2 choices, either go to sleep or read. He always chooses reading and many times I have to go in and make him stop or he will read for hours. This rule has been in place since he was in a toddler bed. No, he couldn’t read at that young age, but he could look at pictures. I set him up a reading table with all his books and when it was time to go to bed, if he didn’t want to go to sleep, he could stay up and look at his books until he was tired. Now at 8 years old, my only struggle is keeping enough new books around!!

  27. Awesome!!! Just started our summer reading program today. Love the idea of the gum ball machine poster!

  28. Can I get anyone’s advice? My son has just finished a year of homeschooled Kindergarten. Next year, he’ll be going to 1st grade at a new charter school. He is JUST starting to really read, and can really only individually read little phonics readers. I want to read a lot with him this summer, of course, and get him as ready for 1st grade as I can. I guess I could do some kind of incentive program with numbers of books, rather than time reading…

    Any suggestions?

    1. Dr. Suess books are great for letting an emergent reader sound out simple words as you read the book *together*. You can do the reading, follow along with your finger and stop every 3 or 4 sentences to allow your child to sound out a word (or alternately, allow them to keep “reading” the same 1 or 2 sight words each time you encounter them; words like the, an, a, who, etc.) There is also a set of early readers out there that boldface and enlarge the font of certain words for the child to read, while the parent reads the rest of the book. They might be called, “Come Read With Me.”

      Keep it light, short, and sweet. Perhaps sound out a few simple words in the early part of the day (when your child isn’t tired), and then cuddle and read together later in the evenings. The Bob books are really good for early readers. Also, Starfall.com is a TERRIFIC site for you and your child to explore. You’ll find little videos for each letter/sound, and animated books your child can read to you online. HTH.

  29. The Pizza Hut Book It! program has been a good motivator to my children to read during the school year. We did it when homeschooling and while my kids were in a charter school. Our local library has an excellent summer reading program. They provide charts to record every 30 minutes of time reading or being read to which my kids all still enjoy. After 5 hours they earn a prize. For my pre-teen, he gets a prize for finishing a book. A few years ago I bought all the kids bookmark timers. Very convenient for keeping track of time and place! This summer my 7 year old daughter and I are going to do Classics studies that we ordered from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Looking forward to another summer of reading!

  30. LOVE your chart. I just printed out our charts for Half Price Books a few nights ago. And thankfully, our three readers really love to read (well, my 10yo son is working on getting on board with the program, lol. To this point, he’s enjoyed “fluff” but was hesitant toward anything meatier. I’ve drawn the needed line in the sand now and he just finished Trumpet of the Swans and is currently reading My Side of the Mountain. He also recently read some of the Ivan books, which are terrific historical Christian fiction works. We’re getting there.)

    I do believe I’ll make a similar chart for mine. They’ll love the more creative approach. TFS.


  31. When we were kids my mom used to “require” 30 mins of reading each morning in the summer before we could turn on the TV. We had to work as a team and encourage each other because my sister, brother, and I all had to finish before we could choose a show. At first it seemed like the worst thing ever to make us read when there was no school. But I’m sure that’s where my love of reading came from. After years of this rule, I would often read for far longer than the required 30 mins.

  32. We homeschool our 3 boys, ages 11, 10 & 7, and once the Pizza Hut Book It reading program is finished in March it’s hard to find motivation for my boys to read. My oldest likes to read, but I didn’t want my middle son to fill his spare time with screen time, and my 7 yr. old is reading well enough now (yay!) that he can finish books on his own & I didn’t want to lose that momentum. We went to the library and got out several sets of Bob Books (love those!). They’re small enough to finish fairly quickly yet such good practice. I told him for every 20 books he finishes I’ll give him $5 in Lego bucks. We also have the small box of ABeka readers that he’ll be able to finish off easily & without much frustration. Being the youngest of 3 boys he tries desperately hard to keep up with his brothers but often ends up frustrated! This way he sees the progress he’s making and knows he CAN do it. My older 2 thought this was a great idea, so I told them for every 20 chapters in a book they finish they will be rewarded with $5 in whatever kind of bucks they’d like. We started our program May 14 & will run thru Aug. 14 (or until we’re broke, whichever comes first, lol!). I’ve always let them pick out the books that look interesting to them, but they all need to be appropriate. At Christmastime my youngest found a book about Peyton Manning that he insisted on getting out, even though he could only read about 10 words in it on his own. But he was INTERESTED, so he kept on trying & trying and that’s the important thing! My middle son also really enjoyed the kids version of the Tim Tebow book, and I even read the grown up version of it along with him. I was thrilled to read this blog today because we just discussed this morning in our devotions about cutting down on total screen time this summer and filling our time with other things. And with a new Lego store near our house here in Ohio, I know there’ll be lots of reading going on! 🙂

  33. Courtney, what a great idea! My son is 4, and loves for us to read to him. He just wrapped up his first year of Pre-School and loved it! I’m so proud of him, and can’t wait for him to begin reading on his own. I’m looking forward to the day where we can sit down together and he can read to me! I’m also a major fan of books and reading, as you can tell by my website! 😉

    Thanks so much for the reading chart idea! 😀

    Be blessed!


  34. If they are big readers now, I am guessing they may be big readers when they are older. I was always reading when I was younger and last year I read 101 books.

  35. This is really great. My 5 yro is learning to read and recognizes lots of words, but not independantly reading now.

    So our summer will continue much the same with me reading to them every day. They both love to sit and look at books on their own so I can see this will be great when they are both big enough.

  36. My kids are high schoolers, but I know the competitive thing well. How about a suggestion? Bonus points for reading aloud to one another? That may help boost your daughter’s minutes with your son’s faster reading skills and give him incentive to cooperate with her a bit? You might have to decide how that works (does the reader and the listener both get bonus points, or just the listener, or just the reader?) In any event, it might help them work together to earn points faster. Also, if your daughter is falling behind, maybe give her booster points for doing a little book-related project, like a diorama or some sort of artwork to illustrate the story so she can “catch up” to her brother.

  37. Hi Courtney!

    I think your reading chart is a great idea and is obviously effective for your kids. When reading about your daughter’s discouragement keeping up with her brother, I had an idea. I didn’t read through the comments, so this may have already been said. If so, I’m sorry! 🙂

    Maybe you could encourage reading and spending quality time together by allowing each of your kids to earn a sticker for reading for 30 minutes to each other/together. (You could even split it; your son reads 15 minutes to his sister, and your daughter reads 15 minutes to her brother…or they could just spend the time reading together.) That way they would both be reading (or practicing active listening) and spending time together.

    Thanks for sharing, and God bless!

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