DIY Summer Reading Program with Free Printable – Frugal Novice

DIY Summer Reading Program with Free Printable

When I was a child I participated in my library’s summer reading program. I read 100 books one summer, earning a trophy (which I still have today – see below) and a $50 savings account at the local bank. I remember loving that particular summer, going to the library as often as possible and reading as late as my parents would let me each night.

My "100 Books" trophy from my childhood can be seen in the white shelf over on the left of this photo.

My “100 Books” trophy from my childhood can be seen in the white shelf in this photo.

Because of my fond memories – and our desire to continually instill a love of reading in our kids – we decided to go to our local library and check out their summer reading program. They have a lot of activities kids can participate in at various branches around town, and each week children can come in to pick up a reading prize. I really appreciate how great our libraries are, but the program wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Kids receive prizes just for coming in each week. So you don’t misunderstand – I think it’s great to have incentive to go to the library on a weekly basis, and our kids love going in and seeing what prize they’ll get that week. I wanted a program for the kids that was more similar to mine, where there are prizes & privileges available based upon how much they’re reading.

I considered several factors when setting up our program. Our boys are 7 & nearly 9, and are reading at different levels. J, our oldest, reads very quickly – but he also reads thicker books. C is reading thinner books that inherently take less time than those J reads.

To keep things fair, I decided to create a system in which 20 minutes of reading earns 1 book buck. The book bucks are a currency the kids can spend on the prizes Brian and I have chosen for them to pick from.

I made book bucks to print out, and labeled a baggie for each of my kids to keep their “money” in. Click here – or on the image below – to download a free PDF for printing your own book bucks!



The kids are required to read for at least 20 minutes every single day, which means they’ll earn a minimum of 7 book bucks each week. What we’ve found, though, is that they easily read twice that amount – if not more – once they start getting into their books.

Our younger son, C, told us at the beginning of summer that he “just didn’t like chapter books” and now he’s reading 4-5 books (he loves the Notebook of Doom series and the My Weirder School books right now) each week! It’s been really exciting to watch his love of reading take hold, and that in itself has made our summer reading program worth it.

Every Sunday they’re allowed to spend their book bucks on items from a prize list I created. Here are some ideas for prizes, and the costs we’ve set up for our program:

  • Stay up 30 minutes late (can only use one of these coupons per week) 3 bucks
  • 30 minutes extra video game time (can only use two of these coupons per week, and only one per day) 3 bucks
  • Rent a Redbox movie (can only use one per week) 2 bucks
  • Treat from our local frozen yogurt or ice cream shop  6 bucks
  • Pick an extra family activity for the month 4 bucks
  • Pick what we eat for dinner one night (meal at home)  4 bucks
  • 1 soda at home (limit of 1 per week) 3 bucks
  • Mom will make a dessert of your choice 4 bucks
  • Build a tent/fort in the living room and sleep in it 3 bucks
  • Buy one new book (can only use two per month) 6 bucks
  • Upsize your snow cone to a medium 2 bucks

Choose prizes and privileges that fit your family best, and adjust the cost for each based on how much you think your kids will read each week. My goal was for this to be challenging (I didn’t want to make every prize cost only one buck, for instance) but also fun (I wanted things to be “cheap” enough that they could afford at least one or two  prizes every week and stay motivated).

Beyond the weekly prizes, I set up an overall summer award, too. As the kids spend their bucks, I’m still keeping track of their overall earnings so that they can earn a medal or trophy at the end of summer based on the cumulative amount of bucks they’ve earned. I found a trophy site that has reading-specific items, and I set up five levels of awards they can earn. There’s a small medal, a medium medal, a small trophy, a medium trophy, and a large trophy. You can also order custom trophies on Amazon, too.


Our boys have loved our summer reading program. They think it’s fun earning the bucks, and as they’ve read more it makes them want to read more. One evening they each earned 7 bucks because they were each so into the books they were reading.

If you have younger kids, like we do (our daughter is 3, nearly 4), you can modify the program to fit them in. Our daughter earns bucks when we read to her or when she looks at books on her own. The boys can earn bucks for themselves and their sister if they choose to read out loud to her. We’ve also decided to include an educational iPad app that counts for her to earn book bucks as well – the app lets her work with letters and sounds within the app, developing some of the skills that will help her learn to read.

Along with our family summer reading program, the kids are participating in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Triathlon and the Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Club. For the Barnes & Noble program we filled out a form for each of our kids answering questions about books they’ve read, and they were each able to pick out a brand new book off a list provided by B&N. For Half Price Books they had us keep a log of the kids’ reading time, and they can earn a $5 gift certificate in both June and July for reading a total of 300 minutes each month. Each program is easy to do and a fun way for kids to earn free books!

I hope these ideas help you foster a love of reading in your kids this summer, or to keep the fire alive if it’s something they already love. Happy reading, and happy summer!

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