Frugal Staycation Idea: DIY Summer Reading Program

I wrote this compensated post as part of the Walmart Moms program. Some affiliate links are used.

My kids look forward to the annual summer reading program at our public library.  In fact, since we almost never travel during the summer (the high cost of gas and the attention our farm needs keeps us home), it's the perfect way to mix up the long days of hard work and reward the kids for brushing up on their reading skills.

This summer, however, our local library was closed for renovations.  My kids were so disappointed.  I came up with this fun DIY Summer Reading Program that you can do at home.  It's the perfect way to end the summer, and it's much more affordable than a family getaway!

There are 5 main components of our program:

1.  Goals.  All of our children are expected to read, although they will have different goals based on their skills.  Since we were a little behind on last year's literature selections for our homeschool, I allowed some of the goals to be tied into this "catch up."  If you have a summer reading list that was sent home from your public or private school, you could incorporate it here, as well.

I set goals for each child based on the number of books, chapters, or minutes read.

2.  Rewards.  What fun is a reading program without prizes?  We print out tickets to give the kids when they read; then the tickets can be redeemed for fun gifts.  We also found some pre-made tickets that can make life much easier.  This is a better solution for families with many kids!

What prizes can you use?  We've done everything from candy to fake tattoos to LEGO kits.  We make sure to have a wide variety of prizes for a variety of ticket values.  That way, even the younger kids with less tickets can make a purchase! If you don't have time to go out and buy an assortment of affordable toys,  you can pick up individual goody bags and party favor multi-packs in the party aisle at Walmart, as well.

3.  Learning.  What good is reading a book, if you can't take away a lesson or two? If you're worried about kids breezing through their reading material without any comprehension, you can always choose to do a very informal lesson to go with it.  Some ideas for fun lessons include lapbooks, family unit studies, or ebook discussion kits.

I like to search for free or affordable resources for the lessons on Pinterest.  (Just type in the name of the book you're reading, along with "homeschool", "printable", "Unit study", or "curriculum" to get ideas from blogs and free worksheet sites.)

4.  Big Screen Fun.  Perhaps one of the best ways to reward kids and keep the book discussions going is to compare the written story to the film.  Several of the books on our reading list happen to be films, so we either buy the movies as a DVD from, or rent them from sites like VUDU.  (Note:  You can sometimes find a few of the films for free from Amazon or Netflix, provided you are already a paying member.)

Here are some films based on books we chose to look at this year:

Young Children:
5 Children and It (UV via Vudu) from $2.99 - based on the book by E. Nesbit
Stuart Little (DVD) for $9.96 - based on the book by E.B. White

Older Children/Teens:
The Hobbit (2-disc + UV) for $17.96 - based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (DVD) for $9.96 - based on the book by John Boyne

5. A party.  What reading program is complete without a year-end bash?  If your party had a theme, plan inexpensive decorations and treats around it.  (We did an Angry Birds birthday party earlier this year; it was affordable and can be used for any kind of party -- even a reading party!)

You could also pick your favorite book and dress like characters from the story, or even eat foods from the place and time that the book took place!

Have you ever considered having your own Reading Program?  While it's a great summer staycation option, it's also a great way to break up the school year -- any time of year!  If you're a homeschooler, or just a parent trying to get your kid to get into books, I can't say enough about how a little motivation can really impact a child's love of literature.  To get some ideas for great books your child can read in any grade, see the Ambleside Online Charlotte Mason Reading List.