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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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101. 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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102. 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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103. 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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104. 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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105. 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

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Skolova

106. 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

Brains On!

Do your kiddies have a burning question? Perfect! Send 'em in! Brains On! finds a different expert for each episode who will address tots' curiosity. Anything from animal farts (yuck) to narwhals have been covered! 

The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

Take a sci-fi trip with Finn Caspian, his friends and their pet robots as their hurl through space aboard the Famous Marlowe 280 Interplanetary Exploratory Space Station. Kids will follow their misadventures as they explore strange planets, meet aliens and gather feedback from listeners on where their intergalactic journey should take them next.


What If World

Storyteller Eric James O'Keefe turns kids' questions into wacky scenarios in What If World, so if your tots are inquisitive, send in their question and let the fun unfold from there! 

Story Time

When eyelids get heavy, tuck the kids into bed and select the perfect adventure on Story Time. These 20-minute-long podcast episodes are perfect for the end of the day, and are split up according to age brackets. 


Stories Podcast

Older children who still want to hear a great story before drifting off to sleep will enjoy this storytelling podcast. Not only will they discover original tales and timeless classics, but they’ll also learn new vocabulary and cut back on screen time right before bed.

Peace Out

Everyone need to feel calm and zen. Thanks to Peace Out, youngsters can tackle the subject of mindfulness as they're guided through activities, relaxing stories and breathing techniques. 


Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl

When it’s time to boogie, start up this musical show for fun tunes that’ll have kids shaking out the sillies. Each playlist contains two hours of music, which is also perfect come birthday party time.

Short & Curly

With a touch of humor and a helping of curiosity, Short & Curly focuses on ethics while exploring topics in pop culture, tech and everyday life. Some previous episodes include, "Was Robin Hood right? Should you rob the rich to help the poor?" and "What's the point of a school uniform?"


Little Stories for Tiny People

Wind down at the end of the night by tucking in, turning on the nightlight, grabbing a teddy and listening to original content from Little Stories for Tiny People. Think of this podcast as a bedtime story in audio form

Book Club for Kids

Tweens looking for new books to add to their collection will find new ones to dive into after listening in on this biweekly podcast. They’ll hear other kids chatting about a great story, along with other literary recommendations and celeb guests who will read an excerpt from the week’s chosen title.

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