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Enjoying Summer AND Staying on Track: Reading Trackers & Challenges

Yearbook signings. Cleaning out desks and lockers. End of the year parties and the sweet sound of the final bell! The end of the school year is anxiously awaited by many. Summer is a well-deserved break for students, but it doesn’t have to mean a break from literacy and reading improvement.

When students take a total “break” from reading over the summer, they can lose up to three-months of reading progress, according to Research also shows that students from lower-socioeconomic groups are more adversely affected by summer reading loss than students from middle- or high-income families. Rather than fear the summer, why not face this situation head-on and turn it into an opportunity and a fun challenge for your child?

Below are three ideas for setting reading goals with your child and staying on track. After all, summer is a time for fun, not worry!

1. The 100 Book Challenge

When I was in elementary school, my school posed a challenge to each student. Read 100 books over the summer. Each interested child was given a form to take home and fill out over the summer. The form contained the book title, date of completion, and the adult signature line to confirm the accomplishment. The form was fun, with smiling caterpillars with large glasses perched on top of colorful book stacks.

What really captured my attention, and what can motivate readers of all ages, were the rows and rows of empty lines waiting to be filled in with a great read. There was something about the challenge to push myself to read more and to SEE the progress that made me return and complete the challenge five years in a row.

This summer, why not make your own 100 Book reading challenge? Before beginning, set up a reward for reaching 100 books and/or set intermediate goals (ice cream after 10 books, water park after 20 books, etc…) This is a great way for children to “buy in” to the challenge and build motivation.

If 100 books seems lofty, work with your child to set a goal. Maybe 50? The point is to set a challenge together. As Lacey Kupfer Wulf advocates at AmReading, parents and children should define the “rules” of the challenge together. What will count as a book? Graphic novels, magazines? Define what are reasonably challenging books for your child, too. For example, you might ask them if you were to compete with them and read 100 picture books, would that be a fair challenge? Probably not! Working together, set the parameters, goals, and rewards. Use a paper logging form for accountability and to measure progress.

2. Reading Tracker Apps

There’s an app for everything. The good news is that many free Reading Tracker apps exist and can take away some of the time required to log and measure book reading. Some apps create graphs and pie charts of reading progress, which might spark motivation in your child as they see their chart grow.

Another idea is to log both your reading progress (as the parent) and your child’s progress. This can be done with many different methods, but the ease of logging books through an app can make parent’s participation in a reading challenge extremely easy.

There are many free apps that log progress. Community Care College lists “5 Apps to Track Summer Reading” to check out for ideas.

Not exactly an app, but another digital-tracking option is Scholastic’s free Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge. Students can log their reading minutes and unlock secret challenges along the way. There are also certificates that students and parents can complete before beginning to formalize the process.

3. Creative Reading Trackers

A great option for crafty kids and parents is to get creative with summer reading tracking! Lacey Kupfer Wulf of AmReading gives nine creative project ideas for logging summer reading. One of my favorites is the reading “Caterpillar.” Each book represents a circle of the caterpillar’s body. Children can make the caterpillar grow by finishing a book and adding a circle. This brings new life to the children’s book classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

Another fun option is “Reading Bingo.” This is a great way to connect reading to other activities. For example, “reading in a tent” or “have a reading party with friends” can make reading more fun for reluctant readers. Parents can add their own activities, too. One recommendation for preventing summer reading loss from HomeRoom, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education, is to “connect reading to other summer events. If you take your child to the zoo, think about reading a book about animals before and afterward. This will place your child’s reading within a larger context.”

What adventures do you and your family have planned this summer? Can you connect a reading bingo square to those adventures? Going to the park? What about “reading on the slide” or “reading for 15 minutes under your favorite tree”?

One last creative option is to create punch-card bookmarks. The bookmark can have as many circles for the number of books decided by you and your child. (You may need to create 3-5 bookmarks to fit all the 100 or so books. Earning the next bookmark can be another fun incentive for readers!) For every book read, kids can punch out the circle. I like this method because kids constantly see the punch card as a reminder to keep reading because it double-serves as their bookmark.

Check out the complete list of nine creative ways to track summer reading by Lacey Kupfer Wulf.

Whatever method you and your child select to keep track of reading this summer, enjoy the process! Read along with your child and set some goals for yourself, too. Summer is a time to recharge and have fun, and what better time for children to learn that reading is fun than with some external motivation and a fun tracking method?

One last quote to return to this summer: “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” – J.K. Rowling

Keep reading!

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