How I created a FUN summer reading challenge for my kids (that’s EASY for me!)

Written by Michelle Watson

May 25, 2023

It’s officially summer reading time in our house.

Here’s how I created a custom summer reading challenge for my two little boys (ages 6 and 7).

I’m using the printables in the free Summer Reading Challenge Pack. Get the free printables right here.

You can totally keep track of your summer reading challenge using a piece of notebook paper or a Post-It. But the printables are PRETTY and FREE. 😊

What’s custom about our custom summer reading challenge?

Why are we even doing this in the first place?

Of course, I want to keep my boys’ reading skills sharp over the summer. Fight the summer slide, as they say.

But most of all, I want them to…

View reading as an enjoyable activity to look forward to, and…

Learn how to pick their own books based on their interests. (I’m not assigning them anything to read.)

That’s it!

  1. Keep reading skills sharp
  2. Foster a LOVE of reading
  3. Practice choosing books for themselves

Notice— these reading challenge goals don’t have anything to do with stats or prizes. I am using a tracker, and I do have rewards planned, but filling the tracker and earning rewards are not goals. We’re not trying to read 100 books, or read for eight-thousand minutes, or earn enough raffle tickets to (possibly) win a bike. All those things are FINE. But they don’t factor into my goals for summer reading.

Reading Time, SET

We set aside 20 minutes every day to read silently.

We usually read in the afternoon when sibling relations have grown stale, and we all need a break from each other.

Even though I’m mightily tempted to quietly get a few things done during this time, I’ve made a commitment to read with them. And you know what? It’s been luxurious to stop, drop, and read right smack in the middle of the afternoon.

The boys pick their own books—that’s a non-negotiable. No assigned reading. So, if they want to read a Lego Star Wars book, then that’s what they read!

When we visit the library, we go on the hunt for fun “reading time” books.

Summer reading joy boxes filled with snacks

Summer Reading Joy Boxes

I got a shoebox-sized plastic bin for each boy and filled it with yummy snacks that are NOT normally in our pantry.

Every day when we sit down to read, the boys pick a snack from their joy box to eat while they read. These snacks are ONLY available during reading time.

I know these snacks are JUNK—look away, healthy mamas, look away!!!—but my boys are inordinately motivated by them. 😶

Reading Rewards

No, these aren’t bribes. 😂 They’re mini-celebrations of all the great books we’ve read! Here’s how we do it.

I filled out the rewards sheet (from the printable pack) with rewards that I’m willing to give them.

Summer reading rewards list

We’re using the bubble page to track the number of days we’ve read using stickers. The boys each have their own tracker with their name on it.

I colored in certain bubbles (approximately every seventh bubble). When we reach a colorful bubble, the boys get to pick a reward from the list.

Summer reading tracker printable


When you download the summer reading challenge printables, I give you several ideas for rewards, but I loathe tiny treasure-chest toys, and my kids aren’t very money-motivated yet, but the snacks? They’re right in our wheelhouse!

Like you, our summer calendar is overflowing. This reading challenge is doable for us. PLUS, it enforces some much-needed quiet/alone time every day.

Do you want a more robust summer reading challenge?

If you’re looking for something that feels more like a summer reading CHALLENGE (all-caps), then check out one of these options:

Literary Adventures hosts a Summer Lit Camp. This year, they are reading The Hobbit over the month of June. It does cost money. It appears to be deep-dive into the novel with live online events and activities. 😊 Looks like fun!

Redeemed Reader has a robust six-week summer reading program (distinctly Christian). It costs a small amount to join. There are booklists for various age groups, so you can choose what you want to read from their shortlist. From there, it looks like they give you discussion questions, devotionals, author interviews, and rewards. Very cool!

If you DO want to grab a copy of the free summer reading challenge printables, you can do that right here. 👇

Tell me what you’re doing with your kids for summer reading!

Leave me a comment with your summer reading plans. I’d love to know!

More along these lines…


  1. Tristan

    I came across your site as a recommendation on the Read Aloud Revival Forum. Thank you for free summer reading printables, they are darling! Our summer reading has come in a lot of formats over the years. Everything from a D.E.A.R. summer (Drop Everything And Read) where we all read at the same time every day, to filling out a bingo board of challenges to complete like reading in a tree or a tent or under the stars, to bi-weekly library trips to find books, etc. I’m not sure what we’re doing this summer – but I know your printables will make it easy and fun!

    • Michelle Watson

      Tristan! You made my day! I like to keep my summer plans flexible, too! Especially the fun stuff like reading. So far, my boys have been enjoying reading time every day, and I’ve noticed that (this week, since we started) they’re voluntarily picking up books more often, just paging through, taking them in the car, seriously reading them, etc. I’m like yessssssss on the inside. 😂


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