Four Ways to Build Accountability into Summer Reading

by Terri Frank
published in Reading

Of all the seasons, summer is the most conducive to reading. Longer days, beachside lounging, and the greater availability of iced beverages are perfect companions for paperbacks in your sandy hands and audio books lulling through your earbuds.

It is also the most fleeting season. As quickly as night turns into day, so too will this summer pass. Don’t lose the opportunity to read memorable books that will stay with you for a lifetime and mold your own writing. Make a plan for your summer reading now. Accountability is a writer’s best friend. Here are a few fun ways to build in accountability and make that TBR pile shrink this summer.

Public Libraries

You may have fond memories of participating in your local library’s summer reading program as a child. Did you know public libraries now have those same contests for adults?

Pick up a reading log or bingo card from your local library, track your reading and be entered for weekly drawings for gift cards, electronics, and literary swag. A bigger library usually means bigger prizes. For example, the New York Public Library gave away Yankees tickets one year and the Indianapolis Library screened free outdoor movies with refreshments provided by a local brewery.

It’s easy to find out if your hometown library has such a program. Visit their website, give them a call or stop in. As a librarian, I can tell you we’re all about encouraging lifelong reading and learning. Don’t feel guilty about getting rewarded for your reading. If adults don’t sign up, these prizes go to waste.

Bookstores & Restaurants

A number of independent bookstores and restaurants offer fantastic summer reading programs for adults. It can take some sleuthing to find these, but keep your eyes open for signs the next time you’re frequenting your favorite establishments.

One such program is at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO. Participants have the opportunity to attend weekly book talks, book clubs, and prose readings. In-store gift cards are raffled off to those who track their reading. Murder by the Book, a large well-known mystery bookstore in Houston, hosts summer reading nights where participants get a sneak preview of hot reads complete with wine and appetizers.

Likewise, independent restaurants and coffee shops are increasingly getting in on the fun. A local restaurant near me offers a free appetizer or dessert to adults who read at least five books each summer. Coffee shops often sponsor additional poetry jams or author readings during June, July and August.

For kids, “A Frugal Chick” blog offers this excellent compilation of bookstores and restaurants that hold free summer reading programs. And, The New York Times has a summer reading contest for teens that could prove very rewarding for young writers.


The greatest growth of adult summer reading programs, however, is occurring in breweries.  Brewery Becker, in Michigan, has partnered with its local public library to offer a summer book club for the 21+ crowd. Monthly discussions take place over a frothy glass of the brewery’s latest creation. The Books & Brews chain in Indiana invites local book clubs to meet at their locations. Books inspire everything from the decor to the literary names of the drinks, plus 10% of profits go to support literacy efforts. You could even use their menu to plan your summer reading. Sip on “Cream & Punishment” as a reward for getting through the Dostoyevsky classic or “Charlie” for reading a Roald Dahl title.

To find such a group near you, google breweries AND (book clubs or summer reading).  Add your city or state to narrow the results. Doing a similar search with “wineries” will point you toward vineyards pairing books and beverages.

Virtual Reading Challenges

The beauty of online summer reading programs is that they can be done anywhere and anytime. In addition, some of them are just darn fun. One of my favorites is the annual Literary Escapes Challenge. Take a vacation right from your Kindle while you read a book set in each of the 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia. Earn bonus points for reading books set in other countries. Stay in touch via the Literary Escapes Facebook group and learn about prizes to be announced later in the year. Writers are encouraged to blog about their progress.

I also adore the Book to Movie Challenge. Read from a list of books about to be adapted to film or TV. Be ahead of the curve. Think about how much fun it will be to see the movie preview while bragging to your seatmate, “ I read that book.” Follow along on social media using #Gather2Read and check the aforementioned website for other creative reading contests.

Finally, review my article about PBS’s The Great American Read  that began last month. A handy checklist has been added to the companion website and voting is now open.

I heard someone say recently that our goals don’t make things happen. It’s our daily habits that do. Before I’m writing about great autumn reads, select one of the above contests and get some summer reading done. Your work in progress will thank you!

Terri Frank is a professional librarian and holds a Master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working in a library, she’s probably visiting a library with her husband and two kids. Her current writing projects include a novel about a tuberculosis sanitorium.

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