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California Summer Reading Program: Five Book Summer Challenge
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Five Book Summer Challenge

In 2013, over 80,000 children and teens read FIVE OR MORE books. We know that public libraries helped prevent summer learning loss for all of these children and teens.

Taking part is easy: run your summer reading program as usual and at the end of summer count how many children and teens read five (or more!) books and report that number to CLA.

Five Book Summer Challenge FAQs

Why should my library participate in CLA's Five Book Summer Challenge?
The White House has reported that reading just five books during the summer can help prevent learning loss.

By telling CLA how many of your children and teens read five more more books over the summer, you can help us easily and simply demonstrate the value and importance of your summer reading programs to legislators, funders, and other stakeholders. You can also use your data in local advocacy efforts.

The White House statement is backed up by research by Harvard professor Jimmy Kim. With the caveat that his research shows "promising yet preliminary findings," Kim states: "Similar to prior research on summer learning… I found that the volume of summer book reading was positively related to fall reading achievement independent of prior reading and writing skills and student background characteristics…. The benefits of reading books during summer vacation were also consistent for all ethnic groups. In particular, reading four to five books had significantly larger effects than reading three or fewer books." (p.184)

How do I submit my results?
We will collect your Five Book Summer Challenge numbers as part of CLA's annual summer reading participation survey. As always, please collate your library jurisdiction's results locally and nominate one person to submit them to the online survey that we will send out in the fall.

My library doesn't count the number of books read. How can we participate?
If you usually count the number of minutes or pages your children and teens read, develop a conversion system to estimate the number of books they read this summer. Here are some conversion suggestions (but please feel free to use your own):

  • 30 pages or 15 mins = 1 children’s picture book or easy reader
  • 100 pages or 1 hour = 1 children’s chapter book
  • 200 pages or 2 hours = 1 teen book

How can we encourage patrons to take part in the Five Book Summer Challenge?
If you want to encourage patrons to take part in the Challenge (and remember, you don't have to promote the Challenge -- you can choose to run your program as usual and, at the end of summer, calculate how many books were read) here are some ideas:

  • Publicly acknowledge everyone who reaches the Five Book target e.g., cut out night-themed decorations for the library and write on them the names of everyone who reads five books; put a personalized bookplate in a library book in honor of everyone who reads five books; display an interactive board that shows the growing number of people who have read five books; give a medal to everyone who reads five books and display them in the library. All of these ideas will also help you develop a community of readers in the library.
  • Put the names of people who read five or more books into a drawing for a special prize.
  • Give out lots of Five Book prizes: ask your Friends Group for coupons to their bookstore or ask local business for donations. Display prizes in the library to create buzz.
  • Put up posters and give out flyers telling parents and kids about the importance of reading during the summer.
  • Take the Five Book Summer Challenge out into the community. Often, the kids who are in most need of the summer reading program don't participate in it. Think about children and teens who are underserved in your community and develop a plan for helping them read five book this summer. CLA's website includes resources to help you reach out with your summer reading program.


1 Kim, Jimmy(2004) 'Summer Reading and the Ethnic Achievement Gap', Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 9: 2, 169-188