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The best summer reading programs for NYC kids

Summer reading programs are as essential to the season as beach trips and waterpark visits, so head to the library ASAP

By Zoe Butenhoff and Danielle Valente

School might not be in session, but kids are definitely hitting the books. Thanks to awesome summer reading programs, youngsters will be able to enjoy a literary bonanza all season long.

Venture to great kids' library branches or your family's favorite bookstores in NYC and let the fun begin! These programs are not only designed to be engaging, but beneficial when the "summer slump" threatens to creep in. 

Even better? There are some pretty sweet incentives for finishing great children's books, so don't be surprised if your kiddos decide to channel Rory Gilmore. Take a gander at our favorite summer reading programs and see which ones are best for your brood!


Best summer reading programs for NYC kids

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1. New York Public Library's Summer Reading Program

Your lil’ reader will have no shortage of book fun this summer at the New York Public Library! With space-themed events going on all-season long, they'll have many opportunities to blast off into other worlds of literary wonder! Youngsters can play the Read for the Star Game by setting a goal to read for a certain number of minutes each day—and once they've completed the challenge, they can visit their neighborhood library to complete bonus activities and earn prizes. Additionally, the Library will reward online completed activities with gifts such as swag bags, stickers and pencils. If the kiddos are eager to chat with a scientist, visit one of the Library’s many events, dubbed “Stories with a Scientist”, to learn more about the profession! Learn more at nypl.org.  

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2. Brooklyn Public Library Summer Reading Program

Launch your tiny tot into “A Universe of Stories” this summer with Brooklyn Public Library’s Summer Reading Program (which kicked off on June 1). Take a little field trip to one of the library’s locations for fun, space-themed activities like story time, live music and scavenger hunts. Now to the fun (and free) stuff! After completing the Summer Reading Challenge, your kiddos can talk to a librarian about how to receive a voucher for two complimentary tickets to an upcoming event at Barclays Center or NYCB LIVE. Additionally, those who complete their challenges will have the chance to enter a raffle ticket drawing for a free iPad. Sounds like a win-win to us! Learn more at bklynlibrary.org.  

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3. Queens Library's Summer Reading Challenge

This summer, head over to the Queens Public Library to indulge all of your reading fantasies, as well as your astronaut dreams! The Library will be holding events like the Battle of the Books for teens who are keen on putting their reading skills to the test. And if a battle doesn’t peak your interest, there will be a total of 17 other events (which are space-themed), such as the NASA Challenge and the Alien Invasion in a Box Challenge. May the best astronaut-bibliophile win! Learn more at connect.queenslibrary.org

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4. Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

Barnes & Noble offers a simple yet rewarding reading program for pint-sized bibliophiles this summer! Kiddos can read eight books and record them in their Summer Reading Journal—all they need to do is jot down their favorite part of the story and explain why they love it. Then, they'll bring their completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store from Aug 1–Aug 31 to choose a free reading adventure. Time to get going on the challenge! Learn more at barnesandnoble.com.   

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5. Audiobooksync.com's Summer Reading Challenge

Sponsored by AudioFile Magazine, this summer reading program—rather listening program—is catered to teens. With a 21st century spin on reading, the program's mission is to send participants two audiobook downloads per week. By signing up for the newsletter, teens will receive info on Thursdays at 7am Eastern Time about how to download the weekly selections. Happy listening! Learn more at audiobooksync.com

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6. Scholastic's Summer Reading Program

The kid's publisher is known for bringing magic to literature, especially this summer. During the Read-a-Palooza challenge—which runs from May 6–Sept 6—kids will log in to record the books they've read and unlock online prizes as they journey further and further through their TBR list. Learn more at scholastic.com.   

More fun things to do

Photogrpah: Robb Hohmann

Wow in the World

The goofball science podcast Wow in the World is packed with as much comedy as information. Hosted by Mindy, a klutz with a time machine, and Guy, her uptight foil, Wow in the World takes on serious scientific inquiries and makes learning fun—even for parents. (After all, the podcast is from NPR.) The expanding cast of silly characters, led by Reggie the carrier pigeon, keeps the episodes fresh. A few listens and your kiddo will want to be a Wowzer, too.

Courtesy Curlee Girlee

Curlee Girlee's Crackin' the Kid Code

The beloved Curlee Girlee book series is a celebration of determination and uniqueness. It works to keep young children in a positive mindset, and its podcast gives parents a sneak peek into "Crackin' the Kid Code." Author Atara Twersky teams up with Grace Cross of The Baby Spot to interview experts and celebrities on ways they can keep their kiddos feeling empowered. Don't forget to order the second Curlee Girlee's Got Talent book, which hits shelves Nov 26, 2019!


Girl Tales

Perfect for the budding feminists in your life, Girl Tales is a podcast that reimagines beloved fairytales through an empowering lense. Don't expect a damsel in distress here! 


Perfect for curious kids (8+) who aren't afraid to turn off their nighlight, Unspookable offers a family-friendly take on popular urban legends, scary stories and myths (think clowns, vampires and other topics that'll give 'em the heebiejeebies). Whether your littles are camp-bound or in the Halloween spirit 24/7/365, this is the perfect podcast for budding horror fans. Be sure to tune in this April for the new fourth season! 


Smash Boom Best

A debate show for kids and families from the makers of Brains On!, Smash Boom Best takes two ideas, smashes them together and lets you decide which one is best. It teaches critical thinking, and how to take oppositional viewpoints. It also is a lot of fun. Past topics include Aliens vs Robots, Pizza vs Tacos and Invisibilty vs Flying.

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child

Indoctrinate your tykes with this weekly playlist of “indie music for indie kids.” Not only will children enjoy starting the day listening to music made for kids, but parents will be delighted to discover that age-appropriate tracks from some of their favorite bands routinely make the cut. Why not off start the day (dancing) on the right foot?



If you have a budding scientist on your hands then Tumble is an absolute must. Experts in the field stop by to discuss their own work, uncover phenomenons and ask questions that will inspire curious minds. This podcast will make your kids fall in love with science.

Five Minutes with Dad

Five Minutes with Dad is not unlike the conversations that happen in your family. You'll love how this pop and his two kids tackle everyday issues, from staying positive in school, to losing a tooth, to showing appreciation for your relatives. The hosts are as charming as they are relatable.


Story Pirates

Here's how Story Pirates works: Kids supply the ideas and the characters, then sketch comedians bring the tales to life. While the stories are good and silly, the performances are terrific fun.  Even better? You can also see their live shows on stage in NYC and around the country! 

The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd

Imagine the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show crossed with Nova and told like an olde-timey radio show and you have the Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd. it follows the journeys of the kind Dr. Floyd and the wicked Dr. Steve. The two are always at odds as they lead listeners on adventures that cover history, geography and science—a fun and unique way to spice up school subjects.


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