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Summer Soar: Reading Challenge Accepted

Reading challenges are a simple, creative way to inspire the reluctant readers among us and a tool to keep pushing avid readers to new heights. They are also a powerful antidote against summer slide.

Before summer break, our teachers worked with scholars to develop individualized summer reading plans that they took home with them. Scholars planned what they would read, making lists of books that piqued their interest based on their friends’ and teacher’s recommendations. They also thought about what steps they could take when they didn’t understand something they read — especially important for our younger readers!

Plans for middle and high school scholars also included fun summer reading challenges. A fifth grader who loved The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 might accept the challenge of reading all of Christopher Paul Curtis’ books (an endeavor I highly recommend, even for grownups!).

A reading challenge can be anything you make it! Here are some ideas that work for a variety of ages – including grownups – so we can all achieve summer soar!

  1. Read one book from each of the following genres and/or topics:
    • Biography / Memoir
    • Fantasy / Science Fiction
    • Historical Fiction
    • History
    • Mystery
    • Poetry
    • Realistic Fiction
    • Science

Genre #1

  1. Pick a major historical figure, event, or era and read one work of historical fiction, one history book, one primary source, and one secondary source focusing on this event, personality, or time period.


  1. Do an author deep dive – read between three and five books by a particular author.

Author Deep Dive #3

  1. Read three to five Newbery Medal winners. Spice it up by reading one winner from each decade – only 10 books, but with a great sense of history!

Newbery Medal #4

  1. Read three to five books with a protagonist AND an author of a different gender than you.


  1. Read three to five books that were adapted into movies – and then watch the movie to compare. Good options for grades 4 to 6 include: Harriet the Spy, How to Train Your Dragon, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz. Good options for grades 6 to 8 include: The Lightning Thief, Holes, Hoot, The Princess Bride, and The Neverending Story.

Movies #6

  1. Read all the books that Matilda read. Note: Matilda read very difficult books for her age, so this challenge works best for 8th graders and older who loved Matilda when they were younger.


  1. Read all the summer reading picks recommended by National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and Success Academy favorite, Kate DiCamillo.

Kate DiCamillo #8

  1. Read the New York Public Library’s 100 Great Books l 100 Years. The list is not organized by age, but adults and kids age 12 and up will love reading picture books alongside Young Adult titles.

NYPL 100 Great #9

I think I’ll tackle reading one book from each of the genres listed above, starting with the realistic fiction novel Not If I See You First. What’s YOUR summer reading challenge? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Sara Yu June 19, 2015


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