The Fifty Book Challenge

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I want to share something that has been an invaluable tool that has gotten us through the past two Houston summers. I didn’t come up with this on my own, but was encouraged to give it a shot by one of my true friends, Angela. It’s called The Fifty Book Challenge and it has revolutionized our summers.

Here is the gist of it: your kids have three months to read fifty books, after which they receive fifty dollars to spend on something real.

Two summers ago when we tried this out on Addie and Jeremiah, we all were uncertain as to whether or not they would finish the books in time. Let me tell you something. Fifty dollars has proven to be a huge motivator for our kids. 🙂 Not only did they finish the challenge in time, they had one whole month left!

Let me give some guidelines:

1. The books must be within the reading level of the child. This may seem very overwhelming, but it challenges them and keeps their interest. Some books will naturally be longer than others. We gave them freedom to read smaller fiction or nonfiction that were age-appropriate, which balanced some of the longer reads we also encouraged them to read. I have also said that books of the bible count in this challenge as well. There are great reading lists online for different ages. Utilize the summer reading lists public schools hand out, or the summer displays in the library. You will go to the library. A LOT. Let your kids choose, but also pick a few books you want them to read. Also, any chapter books that Jason or I read aloud to them during that time period counted as a book to add to their list. (Just our personal rule).

2. They have three months from the starting date to finish their fifty books. For example, this year we began on June 5 and will end on September 5. If you break down the days, they generally have a little more than a day and a half to read each book.

3. They must spend their money on something real. This rule has proved to be very difficult to define. Our children are exposed to so much toy junk through advertising and most kids will come up with a lot of ways to spend fifty dollars before they even have it. I am trying to figure out a witty acronym for REAL, which gives them parameters for spending. Our definition has been to spend the money on something that lasts, something that is good, something that is educational. The first summer Addie spent her money on gerbils and Jeremiah spent his on legos. They could both prove to me that their choices fell within the boundaries of something real.

4. Give them at least an hour a day to read. This is the absolute best part of it all. We just got back from a trip up to Dallas and on the way home, all three of our kids were QUIET for at least an hour as they got out their bag of books and their reading logs and started devouring words. (Thaddaeus was reading quietly out loud, as early readers will need to read aloud or to an adult).

Have fun with this! There are so many benefits they will receive from reading multiple books. Our kids have truly learned to love reading during this time and have gained a tremendous sense of personal accomplishment from finishing this challenge.

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Because, let’s face it. When you are handed a crisp fifty dollar bill that you earned, that is a great feeling.

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3 thoughts on “The Fifty Book Challenge

  1. How fun! Unfortunately for me, that would be mean shelling out over $200 and my kids already love to read. They would have those fifty done in the first two weeks and then be begging me to do it again. (laughing)

    I love the idea though. I’ll definitely have to recommend this to friends who have kids struggling with their desire to read.

    • Yes, we’re right at $150 as well. We will need to evaluate every year to see if this is something we can budget. It has been a great experiment and something the kids look forward to each summer.

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