Summer Reading Programs Across the Triangle

Encourage kids to keep reading via these programs, events and books
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Image courtesy of Khakimullin Aleksandr/

Libraries and bookstores have long offered summer reading programs to stave off “summer slump,” a phrase that refers to when kids lose some of the knowledge they gained during the school year.

This summer, families can participate in programs that offer exciting kickoff events, prizes and interactive activities.

Sarah Lyon, library experience manager with Wake County Public Libraries, says when parents make reading fun, kids get excited about it, too. She hopes families will take advantage of these programs during their summer break.


Library Reading Programs in the Triangle

Summer reading programs at Triangle area libraries kick off in early June. Each library system has its own programming and all of them are free. Families do not have to live in the county to participate. 

Wake County Public Libraries
Wake County Public Libraries added an extra month to its summer program, which runs June 1-Aug. 31. The theme, “A Universe of Stories,” builds on the excitement generated by the 50th anniversary of man’s walk on the moon. Libraries will kick off the free program June 1 and 2. When they register, kids receive a Star Journal to track their progress and can earn weekly prizes.

Wake County Public Libraries has contracted with local entertainers and scientists to elevate participants’ summer experience. Elena Owens, library experience manager, says the program is about more than reading: It focuses on building a natural excitement for learning for at all ages — children and adults.

The library system launches its new year-round, preschool program, “Play Your Way to K,” at the same time. When families register, kids receive a game board to carry wherever they go to inspire a natural love of learning. 

Durham County Library
Earn points for prizes with the Durham County Library’s summer reading program, which kicks off June 15. Each minute of reading equals one point earned. Participants can earn bonus points for attending live events and concerts, or by volunteering in the community. Participants then redeem points for prizes at the library. An online account is required with categories for kids (ages 11 and younger), teens (ages 12-17) and adults (ages 18 and older). Special events are planned at area branches all summer long.

Chapel Hill Public Library
The Chapel Hill Summer Blast reading program runs June 1-Aug. 15. This year’s kickoff party is June 14, 5-8 p.m. Because of the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s famous walk on the moon, many of this year’s activities will emphasize exploring the outdoors and outer space. Families can register for this program beginning June 1.

Orange County Public Library
The Orange County Public Library summer program kicks off June 1, 9 a.m.-noon, at the library’s main branch in Hillsborough, and runs through July 27. “To the Library and Beyond” features activities and events for all ages. As libraries have evolved to include more than books, this program incorporates crafts, active play and skill-building activities. The program is open to all ages, and there is no cost to participate. Visit the website for the complete schedule.

Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield
The Smithfield public library branch provides kids with a “Bingo Board” to encourage independent, summer reading. These boards include fun activities, such as: 
• Read a book outside.
• Read by flashlight.
• Draw an illustration for a book. 

Participants who complete the boards and return them to the library receive a free book. This program is open to anyone, not just residents of Johnston County.


Summer Reading Programs at Local Bookstores

Barnes & Noble
Locations throughout the Triangle
Barnes & Noble bookstores resume their summer reading journal program. Kids in grades one through six can register in May and pick up journals in the stores. They have all summer to read eight books, which they record in the journals. When they turn in completed journals, they are rewarded with a free book from the store. 

To encourage reading, Barnes & Noble also offers an extensive list of book recommendations, based on age and interest, as part of the program.

Quail Ridge Books 
Located in the North Hills shopping center in Raleigh
Quail Ridge Books offers summer reading camps for kids ages 5-18. To learn more and register (a fee is required), visit the bookstore’s website, click on the “Kids & Teens” tab and choose Summer Workshops.


Suggested Books for Kids to Read This Summer

Local librarians can recommend books based on genre, topic and popularity. The list of books below were written by North Carolina authors. 

Picture books and books for young readers:
• “Tea Cakes for Tosh” by Kelly Starling Lyons
• “A Dinosaur in the Sky” by Derek Polen​
• The "Owl Diaries” series by Rebecca Elliott
• The “Fly Guy” books (also recommended for reluctant readers who are a little older) by Tedd Arnold

Books for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12):
• “The Goblin’s Puzzle” by Andrew Chilton
• “The Secret Horses of Briar Hill” by Megan Shepherd
• “Serafina and the Black Cloak” by Robert Beatty
• The “Ranger in Time” series by Kate Messner

Books for young adult readers (ages 12 and older):
• “The Ethan I Was Before” by Ali Standish 
• “This Girl is Different” by J.J. Johnson
• “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black
• “Outcasts United” by Warren St. John
• “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill

Find more book ideas for summer reading using these resources:
Goodreads | Search by genre, book popularity, recommended reading and more.
Choices Reading Lists | Compiled by kids, young adults and educators worldwide each year.
• Reading Rockets | Search themed book lists for young readers.


Karen Dawkins is a Triangle area writer and publisher at A “retired” homeschooling mom of three, she’s an avid reader who prefers paper to screen. 

Tips for Making Summer Reading Fun

• Model! Kids will read if they see the adults in their lives enjoying good books. 
• Read aloud. Even older kids enjoy listening to a good story.
• Make it a friendly competition. Have kids track the number of books they read each week. Let the weekly winner pick dessert or a special activity one day that week. 
• Cooperate. Set a goal for a number of books the entire family should try to read, then record the books as everyone reads them. Can your family reach the goal? 
• Create a cozy reading corner. Incorporate pillows, good lighting and a basket of books. 
• Let kids read what they want. When kids select books – even comics – that interest them, they are more likely to read.
• Designate “no screen times.” During this time encourage reading, playing outside or other noncomputer activities.
• Attend summer programs at a local library. If you read this article, you already know about the many options in our area.


Categories: Cultural, Enrichment, Lifestyle