Skip the Summer Reading Program and Host a Book Club Instead

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Last summer was the first time that I signed my kids up for a summer reading challenge. We love to read around here, so the need for a “challenge” never really came up in the past but it did seem like fun to join the program at our local library. I mean, who doesn’t love fun bookmarks and prizes?

Last year the program here offered “library bucks” for pages read. After each chapter book read independently, I typed the number of pages and the book into our account and their library bucks appeared in their account. The bucks could be traded at the library “store” for various prizes. The kids loved the concept and learned to log their own books, and I ignored the tiny voice in my head nagging me that paying for reading is really not a good thing. Because it’s not.

My kids already love to read because it’s fun … they don’t need “bucks” to pick up a book.

Despite my silent objection, we continued the program and the kids found some new favorite books along the way. When they went to turn in their bucks, they were a bit disappointed. As it turns out, the cool prizes (like the stuffed lion) were so expensive that they didn’t have nearly enough bucks to get anything they wanted.

This year we decided to do things differently. School wasn’t even out before the fliers to join summer reading programs clogged my inbox and the message home from school was clear: Read, read, read! I recycled the fliers and deleted the email and we sat down to talk about books and reading just for fun.

That’s when we decided to have a book club.

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There’s a ton of pressure to avoid the dreaded summer slide by way of organized reading programs. I should add that I genuinely love the idea of reading programs hosted by public libraries. It’s a great way for kids to discover new authors and spend time reading with friends. But there other ways to inspire reading that don’t require logging pages or books read.

A kid book club is a great option. We decided to take turns choosing books (at least two per month and they can have pictures). The person who made the choice leads the discussion and chooses a craft or project to do during the book club meeting. I’m waiting on my turn to lead a discussion of James and the Giant Peach while making peach ice cream.

We’re doing our club within the family for now, but a kid book club is a great way to get friends and neighbors together once or twice a month to chat about books and do something fun together!

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What I love about the summer book club concept is that is reduces the pressure to log pages and books. We’re not competing to read the most books or reading to ear certain prizes, we’re reading for fun and looking forward to a fun-filled afternoon of talking about the book and crafting together.

All kids are different. Some are inspired by reading challenges while others feel pressured by it. A kid book club is a nice middle ground. It can be big for the kid who loves big groups or small for the kid who prefers a few close friends. However you do it, a kid book club is guaranteed to inspire reading, meaningful conversation and a lot of fun.

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Tips for Hosting Your Summer Book Club:

  • Meet outside! Nature and reading are a great combination.
  • Give each child a chance to make a reading selection.
  • Let the one who chooses the book lead the discussion and come up with the craft, project, or adventure to go with it.
  • Circle book club meeting dates on a wall calendar so the kids learn how to meet the deadline.
  • Keep it fun. Resist the urge to nag the kids to focus on reading. When they know they have something to look forward to and the books are fun and engaging, they will be more motivated to read.
  • Avoid competition. This should be fun for the whole family (or group of friends), not a race to finish first.

What do you think?

Skip the Summer Reading Program and Host a Book Club Instead

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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