• Summer Reading Challenge for Secular Homeschool Families

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    For as long as I can remember, our family has taken part in our local library’s summer reading program. It is one of the highlights of the year because our library really goes all out. There’s a kick-off cookout event, multiple weekly activities related to the program, printable logs, and of course, awesome prizes for enthusiastic participants.

    However, we’re “city folk.” I realize that so many secular homeschooling families live rurally, and getting to the local library may be quite the haul. I also realize that not every library system has the resources or even the drive to organize things like our system does. So, for families who want to participate in a summer reading program but can’t find one that already exists, let’s talk about what it would take to create one of your own!

    Planning Your Family Summer Reading Challenge

    I can’t stress this enough: before doing a single other thing related to a summer reading program, pin down your motives. Decide (preferably with your kids’ input) exactly what you hope to accomplish by participating in a summer reading push and why. Maybe you want them to explore books they might not normally be drawn to in the hopes of widening their worldview. Maybe you just want something fun to do together as a family to tighten your bond. Whatever the reason, knowing your “mission statement” ahead of time will drive everything else about the project, so don’t bypass this important step.

    Other things to think about and plan out ahead of your challenge might include:

    • how long you want the project to run in the summer (will it have a start and end date?)
    • whether you will create incentives (like prizes) for reading, or if it will be a self-incentivized activity
    • whether you want to use a prepared reading program (like Scholastic’s or Pizza Hut’s Book-It) or design your own
    • how much of your family’s daily/weekly schedule you want to devote to the challenge
    • whether to integrate other learning subjects in with the reading (such as math/science activities)

    Summer Reading Incentives

    For families who decide that they want to reward their child’s reading efforts with something external, there are no end of ways to accomplish that (and on any budget.) In fact, a reading incentive could be something that costs very little but means oh-so-much to your specific child. For example, your little ice cream aficionado might be more than just a little excited about a create-your-own sundae night as a prize for reaching a reading goal.

    Other prize ideas might include sprinkler parties, a special dinner date with mom or dad, a home spa night complete with massage and pedicure, a movie night in the back yard with a large sheet and a projector, or a week off of chore duty. Another way of making a summer reading challenge even more special is to tie it to your family’s favorite charity. What if you had a large jar on the kitchen counter labeled “__(Family Name)__ Reading Rewards for __(Charity Name)__” and for each book read, you added a specific amount of money to the jar? Some kids are especially motivated by an incentive that is going to benefit others.

    Kicking Off Your Summer Reading Challenge

    One tool every reading challenge needs is a reading log. So, we’re super excited to let you know thatfree-interactive-reading-log-png SHS has an interactive reading log spreadsheet that is completely free and perfect for use with Google Drive. If you prefer a simple printable one, that’s cool, too. There are tons of them to be found via web search or Pinterest.

    Once you have your reading log, though, there are a ton of creative, out-of-the-box ideas for building cool activities into your family project. For example, you could:

    • have a “read-aloud” day, where everyone has to read at least one book to a sibling, grandma, the dog, the goldfish, a neighbor, etc.
    • set up a temporary “stage” and act out a scene from a book someone is reading
    • plan a reading-focused camping trip full of nature-related books (can be done in the backyard or even in a blanket fort, too)
    • have a reading response worksheet for each book read that ties in reading comprehension and other skill-building activities
    • find a vocabulary list for each specific book on Vocabulary Spelling City and play games with the words
    • practice writing book reports for a favorite book or two
    • incorporate a reading olympics challenge
    • create a wall-size bulletin board with images, quotes, and things learned from different books being read
    • HomeschoolLiterature.com has some incredible challenge ideas, too, for both KIDS and TEENS

    The Benefits of a Family Summer Reading Challenge

    Speaking from personal experience, participating in a summer reading challenge has truly added a lot of value to our summers as homeschoolers. For one, it provides some structure in an otherwise non-structured period of weeks. My kids have always craved framework for their lives, and knowing that each day will include something predictable, yet fun, gives them something to look forward to. Another plus of summer reading challenges is that they can be done anywhere: at grandpa’s house, at day camp, lounging by the pool, and even on vacation.

    One of the most obvious upsides of a summer reading program is that it keeps brains active. “Summer Slide” is a well-researched phenomenon that can be addressed quite easily by keeping kids engaged in learning new things during the vacation months. If you’d like even more cool reading ideas for secular homeschoolers, explore our Reading board on Pinterest.

    Did you like this article? You might also want to read: Homeschooling for (almost) free at your local library!
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