No Passport? No Problem! It’s Summer Reading!

Our very own resident librarian and newest member of the Youth Trends team, Shannon Lake, is here to deliver the BEST tips to encourage summer reading including a free download from the BGCA’s Power Hour Resource Guide!

Summer is almost here and it’s time for you and your members to take a trip! No passport, no problem, adventure is available at your fingertips. Take a journey to a far-off place or just around the corner by picking up a book. Yep, that’s right, I said a book.

Don’t be intimidated by the thought of asking youth to read over the summer. There are many options available to make summer reading seem less daunting. First, let’s debunk the myth that everyone must read a physical book to gain the benefits of maintaining or improving their literacy levels during summer break.  Reading is reading. Encourage youth to read blogs, magazines, comic books, graphic novels, picture books, chapter books, poetry, and so on. (These varied formats can be particularly helpful when it comes to boys.)  Also, don’t forget my personal favorites, audiobooks.

Although audiobooks are not what most people think of when they hear summer reading, there are overall literacy benefits to listening. Think about the times you’ve heard that parents should read to their children, known of teachers who read to their entire class and seen advertisements for story time at the local library.  All of these are instances where one person is reading aloud to others who are engaged in listening.  Audiobooks are mimicking these reader/listener interactions.

Studies show that 85% of what we learn is learned through listening.  Listening helps build fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension which are all critical components of reading. The infographic below goes into more detail about the benefits of audiobooks.

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The number one thing to keep in mind as you encourage youth to read is to get the right materials in their hands! This includes finding the right genre, format and topic. Young people are more likely to enjoy reading if they have voice and choice in what they are reading.

Tools You Can Use

If there’s one thing the internet has plenty of, it’s lists! There are a number of summer reading lists available from reputable sources across the web. Learning where to go for the right resources is just as important as finding the resources themselves.

2019 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults

2019 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

20 Notable Children’s Books – 2019

New Multicultural and Social Justice Books – 2019

Children’s Books Made Into Movies – 2018

The “Books” tag on the Club Experience Blog!

In addition to the list of lists I’ve provided, there are ways to get more localized. Most schools provide a summer reading list for students to tackle before they return to school in the fall.  Local libraries create age appropriate summer reading lists. Also, some communities have a citywide read where all ages are invited to read the same book and there are events associated with this. If you can’t find a list that works for your members, start making one of your own with recommendations from staff and youth themselves.

Also, don’t forget to have fun!

  • Create a social media campaign or contest around reading where it’s cool to “get caught” reading. Come up with a fun hashtag and encourage members to catch each other reading. Over on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, we even made tickets you can give out for a “Caught You Reading Raffle”!
  • Read and watch. Ask youth to choose a book from the children’s books turned into movies list and reward reading of the chosen book with a party showing the movie version of the story.
  • Start a summer book club to bring together youth to talk about what they are reading with a small group of peers. Click here for a free excerpt from the Power Hour Resource Guide to explain ways you can setup book clubs.  Boys & Girls Club staff can download all of the Power Hour resources on
  • Get friendly with your local public library. Many local libraries are not just willing, but EXCITED to work with Boys & Girls Clubs. Beyond being a great place to get books from the lists above (and ebooks and audiobook downloads!), librarians can help you curate for any age, subject, or just keep you stocked with the latest books that your members can read at the Club. Some may even have opportunities to visit for special events, or may come to your Club to read aloud!

The possibilities are endless, and your adventure awaits. Let us know how your Club incorporates reading into your summer programs!

How do you encourage youth to read during the summer at your afterschool program? What are your favorite books to read aloud? Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email us at to share!

About Shannon

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Shannon Lake is a member of the Youth Development team and is new to the Movement. She keeps her finger on the pulse of what’s trending with youth and youth development professionals and rolls out her findings Movement-wide as part of the Program Design and Trends team.  Shannon’s background is in  Young Adult Librarianship and Youth Development consulting.

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