2012 Summer Reading Programs for Kids: Free Books, Gift Cards, Prizes + More!

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Summer is a great time to foster a love of reading in kids, and luckily there are several programs to help you encourage your little bookworms. Some programs offer printable charts, prize drawings and even free books for participation, as well as resources for parents like book suggestions and ways to get kids fired up about reading.

Here’s our roundup of summer reading programs for kids. Please leave a comment if you know of any others and we’ll add them to this list. Thanks!

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading program is perhaps the best deal of the bunch: Kids in grades 1-6 read eight books, turn the record in to their local Barnes and Noble store, and earn a free book (they can choose from several for each grade level).

I particularly like that the reading record asks them to whom they would recommend each book they read, and why. Limit one free book per customer during the course of the promotion, which runs from May 22 to September 4.

Book Adventure

From their website: “Book Adventure is a FREE reading motivation program for children in grades K-8. Children create their own book lists from over 7,000 recommended titles, take multiple choice quizzes on the books they’ve read, and earn points and prizes for their literary successes.” Create your own account and link it to your child’s to add additional incentives of your choice.

Book It!

The Book It! Summer Break Reading Challenge is essentially a sweepstakes, but kids must fill in reading logs in order to enter. There will be 50 winners of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid prize pack. This promotion runs from June 15 to August 15 and is available for kids who were in grades K-6 during the 2011-12 school year.

Chuck E. Cheese’s

Print a chart and record reading efforts every day for two weeks to receive 10 free tokens at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Offer expires 12/31/12.

Half Price Books

With Half Price Books’ Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program, kids 14 and under read 15 minutes per day for a month to earn a $5 Half Price Books Bonus Bucks Coupon. It looks as though kids can earn one free $5 coupon per month (June, July and August), but I recommend asking at your store just to be sure. The bonus coupons are valid from 7/25-8/31/12.

Mensa for Kids

Kids receive a commemorative certificate and a Mensa for Kids t-shirt when they complete the Excellence in Reading program for their specific ability-level segment. Find out more information on the Mensa for Kids website.

Old Spaghetti Factory

The Old Spaghetti Factory gives a free kids meal to every child who reads five books as a part of their Rewards of Reading program. I’m not sure if individuals can do this (or what sort of documentation is necessary) or if you need to participate as a part of library, school or community group. You can email info @ osf.com (remove spaces) for more information or call 503.225.0433.

Pottery Barn Kids

The Summer Reading Challenge at Pottery Barn Kids challenges children under 10 to read a list of specific books over the summer months. There are two lists: one for independent readers and one for early readers.

When the books on the list are read, children can turn in their progress poster at a Pottery Barn Kids store for a free book, while supplies last. This promotion runs from May 17 to August 22, 2012, and the free book must be redeemed by August 31.

Scholastic Books

The Scholastic Summer Challenge, in partnership with PBS Kids and iVillage, involves registering your child on the Scholastic website, where they can record their reading to win chances at prizes. The site also lets kids log reading time under their school name so that their school can compete with other schools. As part of the program, parents can also receive daily emails from iVillage that offer literacy support.


Sylvan Reading Adventure is ongoing, so it’s not specifically a summer program, but it’s worth mentioning if it will get your kids motivated. Reading Adventure lists books to read, and when kids take short quizzes about the books, they earn points. The points can then be traded for small prizes, like temporary tattoos or eBook downloads.

Local Library Reading Programs

Summer reading programs for youth are also offered at a number of libraries throughout the Twin Cities metro area. The programs often incorporate prizes or free or low-cost events and entertainment along with logging reading to earn prizes. Libraries offering summer reading fun include the following:

Check out all of our Summer 2012 posts for more fun activities and opportunities going on this summer.

Your turn: Which of these programs will inspire your kids to read?


  1. says

    Hi Carrie,

    Check out Lyrics2learn.com, developed by a Minnesotan, currently teaching 4th grade! it's free for six weeks when you go to sign up on lyrics2learn.com and type in "L2LCEA" under the coupon code section. This definitely gets kids into literacy. It integrates reading with music and an animated character guided kids through lessons. Great for k-7!

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