Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elementary Activities: Summer Reading Wall Charts {Summer Kick-Off}

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

One of the most important things children can do to keep from backsliding over the summer is to READ. Nothing encourages summer reading more than regular trips to the library and these fun wall charts and rewards.
Homemade versions of these wall charts originated with my mom during my own childhood. I remember writing each completed book title on a star or a footprint and then taping them to the wall to track my reading progress down our hallway in the basement. I was so proud of the ever expanding train and I loved earning the rewards my Mom and I had planned together. You can create your own reading wall with the free printable charts below.

Step 1: Decide on a wall where you want your reading chart to be. This can be a bedroom wall or a hallway wall or a wall in the kitchen. How much space you will need depends on how many books your child will read. I think the best way to orient the chart is horizontally so that your child can hang up the piece as soon as the book has been completed but if you don’t have much wall space, the chart can climb vertically and even cross the ceiling if needed.

Step 2: Once you have decided where to put your chart, choose a theme for each child. I have included the following seven themes: Cowboy, Space, Princess, Puppy, Race Car, Wizard and Bo-Peep. Each theme includes three different images. These images are in the public domain or come from If you haven’t checked out this great site for free clip art, you need to! The first page includes 6 copies of a simple image that will be used to record every completed book. For example, images include a crown for the princess set, a horseshoe for the cowboy set and a bone for the puppy set. Make as many copies of this page as you will need for your summer reading. Cut out one image and write your child’s name and START on that image and place it on the wall where you want the chart to begin. Cut apart the rest of the images and store them in a basket or bag somewhere accessible. You will have your child write down the book title and the date they completed the book on the image before they hang it on the wall. (Note: For a very reluctant reader you may choose to write every completed chapter on an image for more obtainable rewards.)

Step 3: Print out the second page of each theme which includes two larger images that will be used for rewards. For example, the puppy theme includes two images of a doghouse, the princess theme includes two castles, and the space theme includes two planets. You will choose what rewards to write on these images with your child. One reward should be earned approximately at the end of June. The second reward should be earned towards the end of the July. Some possible rewards include a visit to an ice cream parlor or McDonalds, a trip to the zoo or a favorite park, an outdoor movie night, a campfire in the mountains etc. Think of a few possible rewards that fit your budget or schedule and then let your child decide which reward he or she wants.

Step 4: Once you have decided on the rewards and written them on the images, you need to hang them on the wall the right distance from the start. To do this, decide how many books you would like your child to read in the month of June. Base this decision on your own child’s ability and interest in reading. This will vary from child to child. Some kids will devour 10 books a month. Some children will read 2 books. You want the reading goal to be realistic but still a little bit challenging. Depending on the age of your child, they will be reading picture books, early chapter books, or longer novels. This will also determine how many books you expect each child to read. If you want your child to read 5 books in June, place the reward down the wall the distance of 5 stars or bones etc. Use the images you have printed out as a guide. Then place your second reward further down the wall to illustrate how many books need to be read in July.

Step 5: Once you have placed your short term rewards on the wall, print out the final page which is a single large image of a cowboy or a spaceman or a princess etc. This large image is the finish line of your reading chart. It represents the final reward for a summer’s worth of reading. Write a larger reward on this image before placing it on the proper space on the wall to illustrate how many books need to be completed in August before school starts. This final reward can be the purchase of a toy or item that the child really wants or a special trip or outing to a water park or an amusement park. It can be a party with favorite foods and include special friends. You decide what will fit in your schedule and budget but make sure that this reward will be a highly motivating for your child. If you have several children participating in your summer reading program, you may want to have the short-term rewards unique to each child but then have the final reward the same for the entire family but only those children who complete their chart can participate.

Step 6: Now that you have set the stage, gather some great books and let the reading begin! Explore some new reading places with your child. How about reading in a tent on the back lawn or while lying on the trampoline or under the kitchen table covered with a blanket. How about reading in bed with a flashlight! Make sure you regularly point out to Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and even the babysitter how the reading chart is growing. You may want to use the dinner table celebration I wrote about here to celebrate when your child reaches a short-term reward. Find our recommendations for fantastic pictures books here and favorite novels here. Enjoy a summer of reading together!

Click on each theme below to print your reading chart

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