Ultimate Guide to Summer Reading Programs Around Columbia


Summertime is upon us! Time to let littles relax and have fun…playing outdoors, staying up late, and reading!

Reading? YES!

Research shows that kids who do not read over the summer can suffer from “summer slide” or “brain drain.” Did you know that loss of reading skills during the summer months is cumulative? These losses add up! By fifth grade, summer reading loss can leave students who do not read in the summer, 2–3 years behind their peers who do read during the summer. Let’s not forget the other obvious benefits we know about reading – it lowers stress, improves vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency.

We know it can be difficult to get your children to read when they are supposed to be on a “break” from all things school, but check out these resources and events going on this summer…hopefully, these events will help make reading and learning over the summer break a little easier for you and your children!

P.S. – Don’t forget to be a reading role model! Take time for yourself this summer to sit in a hammock and READ! Magazines, comic books, catalogs, cook books – reading is reading and if your children see you reading, chances are they will want to read too! 

Lexington County Public Library Summer Reading

The Lexington County Public Library has a summer reading program for all ages (0-adult)! Children and adults can work towards prizes throughout the summer. This program starts on June 1 (you can register NOW).

Richland Library Summer Learning Challenge

Richland Library has a summer learning program for all ages (0-adult)! Similar to the Lexington County Public Library program, children can read and learn for prizes. The program starts on June 1. 

*Please note that both libraries will have lots of special programming throughout the summer (COVID-19 protocols pending). Be sure to check out the schedule of events for all branches – you often do not need a library card to attend events, so check out a program virtually or at a branch you don’t normally visit once they open back up! Call ahead or visit their websites if you do not have a library card for that particular county, just to be sure!

Chuck E. Cheese Summer Reading Program

Read 14 books for 14 days and get 10 free tokens. Visit their website to print off a reading rewards calendar for your children. This is a program you can participate in all year long! 

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program

Children in grades 1-6 can read any eight books, record them on a Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Journal, and tell their favorite part and why. Take the completed journal to a Barnes and Noble store July 1-August 31, 2020 to claim a free book. A list of featured books that children can claim is listed on the back of the journal. Barnes and Noble is located at Richland Fashion Mall (3400 Forest Drive, Columbia, SC 29204).

Scholastic Summer Read-A-Palooza

This is a free online reading program that runs May 4-September 4. The schools with the most minutes logged will win a special prize, but you do not have to be connected to a school to participate. For 2020, they are offering a free digital destination which offers full books, live events, and games in a safe community for readers. Kids are encouraged to track their reading streaks™ to earn rewards and unlock book donations, with the goal of donating 100,000 books by July!  

Clemson University Summer Reading Program

Clemson University is offering several summer reading programs for both children and adults based on individual needs. Classes are held in locations throughout South Carolina. For fees, other information, or to enroll, call 1-800-964-8888, or visit their website for more details.

Reading Rockets

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia project that offers a wealth of research-based reading strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn how to read and read better. Reading Rockets assist parents, teachers, and other educators in helping struggling readers build ­fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. This is not a summer reading program, but a great website to get ideas and book lists.

Book It! Summer Reading

The Pizza Hut Book It! program has an excellent website with information about summer reading, including printables, book activities, and book lists.

Sync FREE Audio Books for Teens Ages 13+

Audio Book Sync is giving teens ages 13+ FREE audio books to download every week starting in April. Titles change every Thursday. There are titles that cover various genres, so your teen is sure to find something they are interested in.

School Reading Camps

Check with your child’s school to see if your school district is offering any reading camps this summer. Many school districts offer them, all you need to do is ask! 

There you go! There are many choices for summer reading – don’t make yourself crazy doing all of the summer reading programs. The most important thing you can do this summer to promote reading at home is to give your child TIME to read what they want.

Let them choose books to check out that are too easy, just right, and too challenging. Those challenging books will provide an excellent opportunity for families to read together and to have important discussions. Those “too easy” books allow children to read something they feel comfortable with. They may just want to visit old friends in a book.

Also, please don’t worry about reading levels or grade levels…choice is powerful…use the flexibility of summer time to give them choice! If you do, I think you will be surprised by the reader you have at the end of summer and your child’s teacher will be happy to have an authentic reader in their classroom! 

What are your summer reading plans? 

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Valerie Byrd Fort was born in Florida, but when she was four years old, her family moved to the midlands and never looked back. She is mom to Katy (human) and to Lucky, Mozzy, and Penny (rescue dogs). She is married to Marty Fort, owner of the Lexington School of Music, Columbia Arts Academy, and Irmo Music Academy. She is an Instructor for the School of Library & Information Science at the University of South Carolina, where she teaches Children’s Literature to future classroom teachers and librarians. She is also Coordinator for Cocky's Reading Express, the University of South Carolina's literacy outreach program. Valerie is passionate about books, literacy, libraries, and reading aloud with children of ALL ages. She writes about books and other literacy related topics on her blog, Library Goddess. In her free time, Valerie enjoys reading, Barre3, going to Target and endless scrolling of social media  


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