‘Penny A Page’ Children’s Summer Reading Challenge


Some of my most vivid childhood memories are from past summers, starting when I was around 7 years old. My parents were both certified teachers at a Christian school in Pennsylvania for 8 years. So for my sister and brother and I, summer still held a bit of structure in certain areas of education. We did 3 basic things to keep our minds and hearts active:

1.) Memorize Scripture- We had a verse a day to recite before lunch.

2.) Read- My parents assembled a stack of books for us to complete during the summer

3.) Write- We had to do some creative writing paragraphs, whether on an assigned topic or a book report.

I’m pretty sure I thought that these daily chores were a terrible punishment on my newly set-free-from-school self. But now that I’m a parent, and one who dearly loves to devour books at that {thanks Mom and Dad,} I find myself implementing these same three things into our summer days. I’m not quite as rigid as my parents were, but I’ve adjusted it to work for us. This summer, we are doing these 3 things:

1.) Memorizing Psalm 84. I’ve blogged before about our fabulous Bible memory method, but I think it was on my old blog because I can’t find the post. Maybe I should resurrect this topic?

2.) Improving handwriting skills (both printing and cursive). I just picked up some practice books from Barnes and Noble- perfect!

3.) Reading lots of pages.

Number three is what I want to tell you about. It’s an incentive program that we call our “penny a page” system. We pay our children a penny for every page they read. This system works great with children of ALL ages and reading levels- from beginners all the way up to teens. Here’s how it works:

At the beginning of June, I chose a stack of required reading books for each child from our own reading library. These books are based on their reading level, and most of them are missionary stories/biographies, historical figures and events, and science books. Each child has 12 books in their stack, so this amounts to 1 book per week if they want to pace themselves that way. {Who are we kidding?  Of course they won’t.} But this is a great idea. 🙂

Anyway, along with the stack of required reading, we go to the library often and they can pick out books of their choice. This can be fiction, learning books about science or geography, etc., Star Wars, fairies, fiction- whatever suits their fancy and is wholesome of course. These books are “fillers” to the stack of required reading. They still get paid a penny a page for these filler books. No matter what they read, it’s a penny a page. But by the end of the summer, those required books better be read. We’ve been talking about implementing some sort of deduction program where they pay us back pennies for the number of pages that are not read… about incentives!

So, how do we keep track of all these pages? Each child has a chart on the refrigerator that has stepping stones for them to color in if they wish. This is so they can visualize their progress. But whether or not they choose to use that part of the chart, they must keep track of their pages. So, after they read, they simply go and jot down that random number of pages in a box on their chart. At the end of the week, they add it up and tell me how much they earned, and they get paid! Last week one of our children earned over $4. Said child is a reading machine. Which brings me to the next question you are thinking right now….how do I know that she is actually reading and not just skimming?

Well, the other required thing is that they must give a short oral report on a book when they finish it. This helps us as parents keep an ear open to their reading comprehension. We can pretty quickly determine if the book has been read and understood. So far, so good on that one. No re-reads yet!

So, here it is in a nutshell:

TWO REQUIREMENTS: 1.)Read the 12 books before summer ends  2.) Give an oral book report on each completed book

ONE INCENTIVE: Earn a penny a page

I’m happy to report that this method is working fabulously. One of our children doesn’t read as fast as the other, so is not earning as much money. BUT said child also really wants to understand what they are reading and feels accomplished after doing so… there has been no skimming or whining about getting less money….yet.  Key word “yet.”

It’s a good have quite a bit of spare change and dollar bills on hand if you have avid readers….because those pennies do add up into dollars! It is so worth it, though, to see our children continuing to learn, enjoying it, and getting a small reward for it.

I love how this method is so much more than earning money and reading. They are learning to take a long term project (the stack of books), and be able to break it down into smaller parts over a period of time (page by page and penny by penny) in order to accomplish their goal (finish the stack.)

Yes, they  need some reminders once in awhile- “How is your stack of books coming?” and “Did you write down your pages today?” But for the most part it is child led. They know the requirements. They know the rewards. If they read, they get paid. If they don’t read, they don’t get paid. So simple. During this whole process, they are actually paying themselves  forward by developing their minds and hearts through the reading of good books- something that will bring a return investment for years to come.

So there it is. It’s not too late to implement this into your summer routine. Summer is only halfway over….so you might need to adjust your number of books in the required stack. Just figure out what works for you, and go for it!


A Kindred Spirit

Register for the pastors’ wives conference at the Wilds!