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Five Frugal Ways to Keep Kids Reading This Summer

Guest post from Caren of The Prudent Reader

As a parent and school media specialist, I know how important it is to keep kids reading over the summer months.

Now that school assignments are over, its time to focus on finding material that your child is interested in reading. My experience has been that even students who claim they don’t like to read, like to read something. Which is why providing a wide range of material to select from is so important.

Visit Your Local Library

 A weekly visit to your local library should be part of your summer routine. An hour spent at the library, letting children look through books on any topic of interest, is time well spent.

Be sure to spend time looking at both fiction and nonfiction material. Some students have no interest in reading stories but love to read nonfiction.

Daily Reading Time

Depending on the age of your children, this may involve you reading to the children, or the children reading independently. Either way, approximately 30 minutes each day set aside for reading is a great habit to establish during lazy summer days.

When my children were younger, we would schedule reading time in the late afternoon. When the temperature was at its highest, a relaxing activity was most welcome.

Even if your children are reading independently, it is still important to read aloud to them occasionally. And if they are spending this time reading on their own, set a good example and use this time to catch up on your personal reading list.

Shop Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

You can find children’s books at amazingly low prices at garage sales and thrift stores. I have found great kid’s books for as little as a quarter.

Your library may also have a used book sale. Our local library sells children’s books for a dime.

Paperback Swap

When searching for a particular title, one of the first places I look is PaperBackSwap.com. Paperback Swap is not just for paperbacks. They have hardcover and audio books as well.

In a nutshell, this is how it works: You list books that you are ready to part with. If someone requests one of the books you have listed, you accept their request and mail the book via media mail. The cost to you is the cost of shipping your old book (around $2.50, depending on the book’s size). For each book you mail, you get a book credit.

When you see a book you would like, you simply request the book. You “pay” for the book with your book credit and another member sends the book to you.


For an unbelievable variety of reading material at a great price (often free), you can’t beat ebooks. For reluctant readers who wouldn’t be caught reading a book on vacation, the “cool” factor of holding a handheld device may overcome their resistance.

And ebooks are easily transportable. In fact, you can take your entire library with you on vacation.

How do you encourage summer reading for your kids?

Find more tips about frugal ways to obtain reading material at The Prudent Reader.

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  1. Amie says

    We are so in love with our library this summer. I have young children and this is the first year that story time at our library and nap time don’t conflict. We have been checking out books, videos, and enjoying story time. It is great! My boys just turned 2 and 4 and love the library. We joined the summer reading club, too. I am a teacher so we all have summers off. This is wonderful, free fun.

  2. says

    I love this post. I feel that encouraging your kids to read during the summer is one of the best things for kids to do. One of the other fun places to visit is the local bookstore. Many of them have story time and/or related activity time. It does not cost anything to visit the bookstore, (if you can resist buying). Also, creating a book log can help encourage the reading and makes a great keepsake for later.

  3. says

    The library is wonderful for us too! I have 5 boys, and they love visiting the library. We joined the summer reading club yesterday and they haven’t quit asking me to read to them since! :) My 8 year old already has 1.5 hours of reading time just since yesterday (and he’s not usually one to just sit and read!)!

  4. Tracy says

    My son loves to read so we are always on the look out for new books. We have a Barnes & Nobles a couple hours away from us so going there for books is a huge treat for my son. I printed off their summer reading for kids journal from their website and when my son read 8 books and filled out his journal he gets to pick out a new book from the list on the back for free. We have done this the past 2 years and he looks forward to it all year.

    Another way to make reading more frugal is to ask for books or gift cards to your local bookstore for your kids birthday and holiday celebration. I know for my son he looks forward to getting new books.

    Also paperbackswap.com is great like this article says. Especially if your child likes a certain series because you can put the books on a wish list and be notified when they are available.

  5. amber says

    Each day my children read to me for half an hour. Something they enjoy doing is keeping a reading list. My first grade daughter kept a list of all the books she read in first grade from start to finish. School ended a few weeks ago and her total was 94 books. Now we have started a summer reading list.

    Something else we do here is reading before bedtime. One night I will let the kids each pick out a book. The next night I will read from our current chapter book. Right now we are reading Little House on the Prairie.

    You can also sometimes find books for free on craigslist and freecycle.

  6. says

    I’m so glad you mentioned ebooks! My daughter hates reading paper books, but give her a kindle or computer screen and she goes to town. She’s actually why I started a children’s publishing company devoted to ebooks. We’re offering 5 books for free tomorrow (Wednesday 6/13) that will be featured on my blog and there are so many inexpensive and free books out there that are really great. Best part of all: no library late fees! (I got hit with $18 last week, but we love our local library too…)

  7. Cindy says

    A publishing company near us has a book sale once a year… great books by great authors have brand new books which can be had for $1. I usually stock up and then pull some out throughout the year to keep the book supply fresh. My kids also have an Aunt and Uncle who always give books for Birthdays and Christmas. We probably have book overload here!

  8. says

    My family loves books. I especially love reading on my i-touch using the kindle app. I get a book done by reading a few minutes here and there. For FREE kindles books I love typing the word Bestsellers into the Kindle store and then clicking on the 100 top free. Often children’s books will be in there and what is in the top 100 free changes from day to day so I check often. I have gotten many great book this way!

  9. says

    My 8 year old LOVES reading on my kindle… so much so that I am thinking about getting one for her. She also loves traditional books of all kinds… I think what really got her interested was our local summer reading program. We started going 3 years ago and she was delighted to find that she was rewarded for reading! So we are sure to go every year now, and she still loves reading year round. She recently read the entire 1st Percy Jackson book in one weekend! (sorry… mommy brag moment there.lol)

  10. Stephanie says

    If your child is reading on their own, I would add that it is important to continue to also read to them aloud daily (not just ‘occasionally’). For reading aloud time, your goal is to select books that are a notch or two above their personal reading level so that they continue to learn, imagine and expand their listening vocabulary.

    It’s important to select books that challenge their minds. “The Read Aloud Handbook’ by Jim Trelease is a great resource for parents.

  11. April D. says

    As everyone has said visit your local library. I have them on speed dial and they know us by name we visit so much. We love the local habitat for humanity store that sells books for cheap and of course yard sales. I don’t really have to encourage my child b/c she loves to read. I think that is b/c both her father and i read for both work and enjoyment that it is a daily part of our lives. I believe children model what they see.

  12. says

    Don’t overlook used bookstores!

    My parents have a frugal system that works really well for them.
    Their friends buy new books, who then pass them on to read to another friend, who pases it on to another friend, who passes it on to another, and then they go to my parents. When my parents are done, they sell them to a used bookstore for store credit. They use the store credit to buy used books for my children for their birthdays and Christmas.

  13. Andrea says

    While reading is important, forcing a child to read may actually ruin it for them. One of my sisters struggled with reading and really disliked having to participate in the summer reading program at the local library. She did not read for pleasure until her 30s. The same thing happened to my niece and nephew; they only read when it is required. The rewards programs no longer work, because a free pizza or book isn’t enough of a bribe.

    Set up a display of books on a coffee table or card table. Change the titles every few days. In addition to fiction, include magazines, non-fiction and books on CDs/tapes. I do this year-round and my children typically look at something every few days.

    Also, don’t discount the value of reading game instructions, menus, reading and following a recipe or reading the weather report in the newspaper. All of those things are important!

  14. Charity says

    I’m a germaphobe, so I can’t bring myself to check out books from the library, especially for my children. Just think of all the germs!! Oh my word, gives me the eeby-jeebys!

  15. says

    We purchased a kindle this year to use in our homeschool. We use many of the classics in our homeschool and I find I can get most of them free for the kindle. We also have an ipad and we use an app called vbookz. My daughter has dyslexia and by following along as the app reads to her I have seen a jump in her reading abilities.

  16. crystal d says

    There are a lot of summer movies released or are on video that are actually from books. I have 4 teenagers and I would have multiple summer books that we would read out loud together. When the book was finished we could go to the movie or watch it on video. Rule: if it was a book before it was a movie we must read the book first. My kids always thought the books were better and the out loud reading really helped them( my 11th grader said she cant believe how poorly the kids in honors English read out loud when they do plays in school)All of my kids still go to the library especially during the summer and still on their own read the book before the movie…..P.S. most disney movies came from a book….alladin, etc…..

  17. Jiya says

    Summer reading programs from your local library are great, too — our library has a big party at the end of summer for all the kids who participate, with pizza & cake and prizes for all the participants. My son looks forward to it each summer (and he desperately wants to win the raffle prize — a bag full of books). Barnes & Noble has a reading journal you can print out, and turn in for a free book. HEB also has a reading program for a free t-shirt, but only for Texas residents.

  18. says

    Overdrive.com has arrangements with many public libraries and offers ebooks and audiobooks that can be borrowed just like a real book from the library. Many books have Kindle versions, and others have pdf or ebook versions to be read on a PC. While many of the newer, popular books may not be readily available to check out when you want them, they can be put on hold. My son is reading some Agatha Christie books for his summer English assignment, and all the books he needs are available. When it works, it works well!

  19. says

    According to ‘The Read-Aloud Handbook’ by Jim Trelease, the interest in reading a book outside of school drops from 100% in kindergarten to 54% in 4th grade. What changed in that time? The parents stopped reading to their kids. We as parents and grandparents need to make sure we are doing what we can to combat the lack of interest in reading for kids. We need to make books accessible to children. The three best places to keep books are in the bedroom, in the bathroom, and at the breakfast table. Another great place is the car while traveling and waiting places.
    If you’re interested in getting some free children’s books, you may consider hosting an Usborne Books & More facebook party or home show (mention this comment to get $20 in books free!).
    Usborne Books is the 2014 Children’s Publisher of the Year, and if your kids are rough on books you can buy them back for 1/2 the price!

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