Fun Summer Reading Activities for Kids

With summer comes fun, play time, and sleeping in late. Unfortunately, it also means potential reading loss for kids. This post shares fun summer reading activities for kids in upper elementary grades. These engaging ideas are easy to use and help kids prepare to re-enter school in the fall stronger.

PLUS–you can grab some FREE summer reading challenges for kids!

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What is the Summer Slide?

His cheeks were so red and he could barely maintain eye contact with me.

When I walked over to ask him what happened, he sheepishly whispered, “I can’t read this.”

This was during the first week of school several years ago with a former 4th grade student. He already struggled with reading throughout 3rd grade, but became even more behind during the summer.

Why? Because of the dreaded summer slide.

Scholastic reports that 3rd through 5th grade students lose up to 20% of the reading skills they gained during the school year when they don’t read during the summer.

And this was pre-pandemic.

Kids, especially now, need engaging summer reading activities. And we have them for you here.

Summer Reading Challenges for Kids

By far my favorite fun way to keep kids engaged with reading is to use reading challenges.

Years ago, I ditched using reading logs in favor of challenges.

My students are way more motivated to complete a reading challenge than a chart or reading log that only lists what books they’ve read.

And you know how I keep kids from losing the challenge lists? Put them on bookmarks!

Having the challenges on bookmarks cuts down on students losing them because they are using the bookmark while they’re reading.

Click the image to see the full set.

Here’s how I use Reading Bookmark Challenges instead of Reading Logs:

  • Each week my students get a bookmark from me with five reading ideas on it. When they complete a reading assignment, aka challenge, they color that space on their bookmark.
  • For our 9-week grading period, this gives students 35 different reading ideas/challenges.
  • I give reading awards during 3, 6, and 9 week intervals as a way to further motivate them to complete all the reading assignments/challenges.
  • Some of these challenges can be completed at home and some can be completed at school. That allows flexibility for students.

I change the challenges depending on the season or activities happening in our class. This is what allows them to work so well during the summer.

Students get these from me the last week of school and if they bring them back to me during the following school year, I give them a prize!

If this seems like too much for you, ask your school’s librarian to help you manage the details.

There’s enough variety with each bookmark challenge that students don’t get bored keeping up with reading throughout the school year.

Interesting Nonfiction Passages and Magazines

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I motivate my child to read during the summer?” then I strongly recommend using high-interest nonfiction texts themed for the summer.

Upper elementary kids love learning new random facts! Use this to your advantage by offering them magazines with really fun topics.

Most children’s magazines also offer games and activities aligned to the articles and stories kids read.

Any nonfiction passage you pick must be something big kids like to read. Having a variety of summer-related topics really helps if you don’t know what your kiddo likes to read.

Of course, you can always ask them what they like!

The quick-reads I enjoy using challenge students to color-code their answers, which forces them to refer back to the text.

This is such an important reading skill that kids don’t need to lose over the summer! You can see more details about these passages:

How Do I Find Affordable Books and Magazines for Students?

If you’re looking for cheap ways to stock your classroom library, then check out the post linked in this sentence.

But when it comes to finding books or magazines to use as summer reading activities, I recommend Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon Kindle Unlimited--The Butterfly Teacher

This is a digital reading program, but you don’t have to have a Kindle reader to use it. You can download the free Kindle reading app on any device.

I’ve used it for years as a teacher and parent. I pay a flat fee every month of $9.99 with access to thousands of books and magazines.

There’s no additional costs to have up to 3 magazine subscriptions + up to 10 books in your “queue” at the same time.

The variety they offer to upper elementary students’ reading tastes is really good too.

You can try it here FREE for 30 days if you’d like.

EPIC or Vooks Animated E-Books

Speaking of digital reading, another option for fun summer reading activities for upper elementary kids relates to the apps EPIC and Vooks.

Both have a huge assortment of books just for kids. Even more than Kindle Unlimited, which offers adult reading material also by the way.

Vooks takes their digital reading to the next level with videos acting out the reading.

And they are awesome!

It’s an ad-free library of animated story books that turn read-alouds into video content. That’s where the name comes from: video + books= Vooks.

I especially like how the words to the story show up on the screen with the animations.

They even include lesson plans that can be helpful in saving time.

To me, there’s more content for elementary teachers rather than middle or high school.

This means you have lots of fun summer reading books for your 3rd through 5th graders.

So, if you want to spice up your virtual reading, you can get 30 Days FREE here. (affiliate link)

Public Library Reading Programs

In addition to the ideas above, you can make reading fun by participating in your local library’s public reading programs.

Of course the nitty gritty details of this depend on your library’s children’s department.

For instance, at my local library every summer they have summer reading activities for kids like:

  • Author visits where kids meet children’s book authors
  • Re-enactments or reader’s theater for certain stories
  • “Read and Play Dates” where parents bring kids to partner read together

These are just a few options available; your local library may have more or less.

Even if they don’t have lots of options, ask your librarian for book recommendations or ideas on what your students can read during the summer.

You can also grab some ideas for different chapter books HERE.

Vocabulary & ELA Practice for Upper Elementary

Even though this post focuses on reading, many kids will also need general vocabulary practice this summer. Vocabulary and word-building is directly connected to reading success and interest.

If your kids struggle with reading, their interest in summer reading will naturally be low. Maybe your students need tutoring, but their families can’t afford that.

Then I recommend giving students the type of affordable, yet effective vocabulary and ELA workbook practice that will help them improve.

I wrote a book specifically for upper elementary kids who need simple and on-going vocabulary practice to strengthen their reading skills.

The exercises in this book are standards-aligned and rigorous, but also interesting enough to keep students engaged.

Not only that, but these exercises come with lesson examples and allow kids to complete each one independently.

Adding this to your list of summer reading activities will keep kids from losing ground due to the dreaded summer slide.

Summer Enrichment Learning Around the House

Last, but not least, you can make summer reading interesting with learning activities around the house.

Learning takes place in the everyday scenarios of life:

  • Reading a recipe book to help cook
  • Watching a movie that’s based on a children’s book, then reading the book to compare the two (maybe you want to do this in the reserve order!)
  • Writing letters or journal entries
  • Painting a picture, then writing a caption for it
  • Enjoying a bedtime story together
  • Reading newspapers and magazines
  • Build a pillow or sheet fort in the house, grab some flashlights and have a “Living Room Reading Camp!”

This set of summer enrichment activities includes reading, writing, and math!

I could go on and on with this list, but the point is to make teachable moments from your normal routine. These can really keep the learning going as you enjoy your summer days with kids.

Plus, these summer lesson activities require no additional prep work from adults. Just print and go!

For more ways to keep your kiddos engaged during the summer, check out the eight ideas mentioned in this post:


Answers to Common Questions about Reading Outside of School

Even with the ideas mentioned above, you may want to know more.

Whether you’re a teacher, homeschooling parent, or a parent who just wants to make sure your child doesn’t fall behind, here are answers to your most common questions:

  1. How can I make summer reading fun?
    Start with the summer reading challenges offered for free. Allow your kids to choose books with topics they enjoy.
  2. What are some fun ways to teach a child to read?
    Hands-on learning activities are my favorite for beginning readers. Check out the phonics and reading comprehension games that I recommend for 2nd grade readers here.
  3. How can I help my child with reading when I work full-time?
    Doing everything alone burns you out! If you are a full-time working parent, use engaging activities that kids can do independently or ask someone you trust with help.
  4. Is it ok for my kid to read e-books or should we only use printed books?
    The debate swirling around learning on devices is still pretty high. To e-book or not to e-book; the short answer: it depends on your kids’ ages and reading strengths. If you want the longer, research-based answer, we have it for you here in this post.
  5. My kid loves math, but hates reading. What should I do?
    Connect their love of math with reading by giving them these math read-alouds to enjoy this summer!

Free Summer Reading Activities for Upper Elementary

Kick off your kids’ reading with these FREE summer reading challenges!

Teachers can give these to students during the last days of school. Parents can keep them going throughout the summer.

Either way, they make summer reading fun!

What other ideas do you want to try from this post? Let us know in the comment below.

The Butterfly Teacher

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