Let the Summer of (multilingual) Reading begin!

If there is one thing I miss from our previous life in America, it’s got to be the library system. I’ve written about American libraries before. I remember the kids’ excitement at every visit – the toys, the story-time, the crafts! I also remember asking one library’s book checkout limit. The librarian chuckled and said, “Oh, well, you can borrow 300 books if you’d like, even if they are all new releases, and why not try borrowing paintings or other works of art!”

Of course, what made the library great wasn’t only about the number of books you could borrow. North American libraries are also notorious for their Summer of Reading programs. This program encourages mainly children and youth across the US to use their long summers to read (or be read to!). They earn prizes along the way and upon completion. Each library had a different challenge and set of prizes, so we’d make sure to sign up for a few of them. Many of those programs would start in June.

We have a few weeks before the kids are officially on summer vacation on this side of the pond. But, as the extra-curricular activities begin to wind down, I have naturally been thinking about our summer plans. I’ve also been dreaming of a way to increase the kids’ enthusiasm towards reading – particularly in their main minority language, which has now become English.

What a better time than to make our own DIY Summer of Reading program – one that fits a multilingual family’s reading needs!

To reward or not to reward?
Mine little chart is fairly simple. 10 books equals one prize – most of which I still need to come up with. 😉 I have read articles saying that reading rewards imply that reading isn’t inherently fun. While I can see where that argument is coming from, I am quite confident that my kids will love the process, enjoy the reading and all the treats. Enough with arduous school! We’re going for the summer of fun treats version. 🙂  You don’t really even have to list all the prizes. I gave myself until the end of summer to come up with a “End of Summer Reading” reward. I was thinking of a trip to see a live show or musical performance. Ayo thought of a proper haircut as his big treat. Poor child just wants his hair cut. Oh dear.


It will likely be just a small token (like a removable tatoo (why do they love these??), a little pot of play-dough, or some other random object), with the exception of the first 10 books to start out with a bang: going out for ice cream! I started out with a 40 book goal, not wanting to discourage anyone. However, they desperately wanted to finish the whole chart on day one, so I can foresee a part two.


In fact, they were all holding books in the school parking lot today, hoping I could read to them before school. Unfortunately, I turned my head, which resulted in one little German book being placed inside the front car grill, such a letter in the postbox. The mechanic insisted it was better to avoid it going into the vent or catching fire. And so, this is how I ended up spending my afternoon at the mechanic’s watching them hoist the car up to dismount the floor-pan to retrieve a book. Are you absolutely kidding me? Grrrr. You can’t even make these things up.


Can we just get back to reading, kids?

What’s your literacy focus?
The best thing about making a DIY chart is that you can organize your Summer of Reading any way you’d like based on what you’d like to focus on. And of course, your little ones’ ages. So that’s what I thought of when designing our chart. Each of our children certainly have different needs.
– Kid 1 (age 6): More fluid reading & writing. Committing to chapter books.
– Kid 2 (age 4.5): Developing pre-literacy skills. Attention span with beginner chapter books.
– Kid 3 (age 2.5): We just need to find more time to read to him (#ThirdBorn)!

Thus, Ayo being the oldest will have to work hardest as he is the only one able to actually read. And reversely, we will have to work hardest to read to our littlest one.

Encouraging multilingual reading
I wanted to distinguish books that are read in French from English (and and other languages when I can pluck up the courage) to give us an idea of how much more of one language we read. We’re just using different colored stickers. It also encourages us all to read more in the other language(s). I track my own reading in this way and it is a real eye-opener. It could be that books in a certain language counts double, if it is really hard for a child to read in that language. Audiobooks are nice crutches too when you just.can’t.read.any.longer!

Adding fun literacy challenges
I love thinking of fun ideas to promote literacy as part of the Summer of Reading journey.


I added simple challenges like:

– Read to a sibling
– Have someone new read to you
– Read outloud to papa/maman
– Go to a story-time at a library
– Choose and reserve a book online
– “Read” an audiobook!
– Tell someone about a book you just read
– Visit an English library
– Write your own story

I never expected my kids to latch on to that last challenge in particular. Ayo spent all afternoon jumping ahead of all the other challenges, writing and illustrating a story of his own, which is by no means an easy task. We talked together about how a story is made up of people and a situation, a problem and a way to resolve that problem. He went to bed reading the first four pages of his own story, eyes glistening and dreaming about how his pirate story would end. If that’s not developing the love of reading!

I can tell we’re going to have some fun with our challenge! And get some haircuts along the way. Do you or your kids have any  language or reading goals this summer?


Related: 5 wonderful new cross-cultural books well worth your time

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