How summer reading pays off
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Sometimes the hardest part about vacation may not be the planning, prep work, and long traveling days with kids.
Crazy as it may sound, one of our biggest struggles while traveling was dealing with our kiddos' incessant asking for souvenirs and sweet treats along the way. Saying "no" all day long can start to take the fun out of vacation.
You know what I'm talking about. You find yourself walking down every aisle in a visitor center, guest shop, or road side gas station and the question comes at you from four different directions.
"Mom, will you buy this for me? Pleeease?! I've always wanted one!"
You take one look at the price tag while trying to ignore those huge puppy dog eyes, and all of a sudden you find yourself in the middle of an argument with your kid about why buying the six inch tall buffalo bobble head is NOT the best way to spend twenty bucks.
Listen up moms and dads
I may have just the trick to remove the monkey off your back when it comes to buying souvenirs and extra sugar on family trips. And it involves summer reading.
What does summer reading have to do with souvenirs and sweet shops?
Well, if you're anything like us, as the school year is winding down, you may be thinking of creative ways to encourage your kids to commit to daily summer reading in between splashes at the pool and play dates with friends.
A few years back, we created our own summer reading program to go hand-in-hand with earning money for our summer vacation's souvenirs and road trip treats.
It's quite simple and works like a charm!
Create or print out a summer reading log
Simply design a reading chart using a monthly calendar page or download this simple reading log here. Or even better, invite your kids to make a reading log to help them get with the program.
We just ask each kid to write their initial and the amount of time they spent reading each day. Some years, we've asked them to record what book they're reading and the number of pages read that day (more accountability here). You could use different colored pens for recording if you like.
In our home, we reward our kids with $1 vacation spending money for every 20 minutes they read. If you have older kids (ages 12 and older) maybe you decide to require 30 minutes of sustained reading.
Figure out what works for your family and what's within your budget.
Your kids are smart. They might start reading a lot! And then the rewards start racking up pretty quick and maybe the reading program is about to break the bank. Feel free to put a cap on the amount they can earn per day or per week.
In the past, we've capped our kids at earning $5 per week if vacation is 8 weeks away. We have four kids, so that equals $160 we are potentially doling out. Again, create a plan that works for your family.
Reading = vacation spending money
Boom! Your kids are reading. And armed with personal mad money for vacay.
Your kiddos can scan every gift store and gas station aisel for funky souvenirs and junk food while you stand back and chuckle. They decide what's worth spending their money on. Do the happy dance.
We live on a budget, so this incentivized reading plan works really well for our family. Decide your reading requirements and the amount of your reading incentives appropriate for your individual kiddos.
What if your vacation is just 4 weeks away? Simply, ask them to read longer each day for a little bit more money. Let them continue the reading plan while you're traveling. You're sure to have down time on vacation.
What if you're traveling the day after school is out? Start keeping a log before school is out. They can read on the weekends and at night before bed. Sometimes our kids need extra encouragement to continue reading as the school year wanes anyway. Or consider keeping a log over Christmas break and other down times.
So are we bribing our kids to read? Yeah, probably. But I'm totally okay with it.
And we still treat our kids to ice cream cones and treats from our own wallet. This plan just keeps us all from going hog wild at the gift shop and sweet shop.
5 fab reasons to love this wise summer reading program:
1. Eliminates your kids begging for souvenirs
Praise the Lord, hallelujah! Everyone wins because you're not saying "no" all day long, and they have fun saying "yes" to themselves.
2. Teaches your kids a bit about budgeting
Let's say they earn $40 and you're going to be gone 9-10 days. They know when it's gone, it's gone. Your kids will decide what's worth spending their money on pretty quick. They may even learn the hard way when they blow all of their money half way through the week and they can't afford to buy Sour Patch Kids on the way home.
3. Increases their reading stamina and vocabulary
Obviously, the more your kids read, the better they become at it and the more they'll know. Summer reading also prevents learning loss and keeps them from getting behind in school. In fact, summer reading will most likely help your kids stay ahead in school.
4. Reminds your kids that reading is fun
Summer reading encourages kids to read whatever they choose (with mom and dad's approval). Reading what you choose promotes a love of reading for recreation.
My teenagers especially love summer reading because of the freedom to read what they want, a welcome break from reading what a teacher assigns. Did you know studies show that kids who read for fun often out-perform kids who don't?
5. Helps everyone enjoy summer break at home and on vacation
Summer reading is a free, fun summer activity when you visit your local public library. So many choices! Reading fills up down time at home and away. And reading while on vacation is a nice way to pass time on the road, on the airplane or when you have time to chill between fun excursions and outdoor adventures.
Rad books recommended by our kids
Jackson's all time faves (15 yo):
Wonder* by R.J. Palacio (My 3 oldest kids ALL mentioned this one!)
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull
Beyonders series by Brandon Mull
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
Kierstin's all time faves (14 yo):
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Graceful: A Wish Novel by Wendy Mass
Tessa's all time faves (11 yo):
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
One for the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt
Auggie & Me by R.J. Palacio
Dreamer Wisher Liar by Charise Mericle Harper
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (Neil Patrick Harris and Patrick Warburton made this series come alive on their popular Netflix series!)
Grant's all time faves (8 yo):
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis
Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey
Geronimo Stilton series by Geronimo Stilton
Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne
* A top pick from all 3 of my older readers!
Listen to audio books as a family
Have you ever tried listening to Audible books by Amazon while on a long road trip together as a family? Audible books are a great way to enjoy time in the car together, especially on long road trips.
Speaking of long road trips, we're headed to California. You can read all about our California itinerary here.
Moms: are you looking for some good summer reads? My friend Melissa provides great suggestions. Check out Melissa's book shelf here.
What books does your family enjoy? How do you handle buying souvenirs while on vacation? What tips would you like to pass along for summer reading? We would love to know, so please comment below!