10 Take-Home Kits for Your Summer Reading Program

A child works on an origami art take-home kit.With the uncertainties around when libraries will reopen their doors to the public, many librarians are rethinking how they will deliver programming and prizes for their summer reading programs.

Interactive take-home activity kits are a great complement to online tracking and challenges, virtual programming, and e-resources — and best of all, they’re easy to implement with your patrons.

Organizing Your Summer Reading Kits 

Start with advertising your program. Include details about when your events will run and when kits will be available for pickup. To gauge how many kits you’ll need, provide a link to your library’s registration platform or a Google Form for participants to sign up.

You can place the kits in individual bags and place them in bins or on a book trucks for contactless pickup at a scheduled time. Place a sign on the cart asking participants to please only touch and take one bag per customer.

To cut down on in-person pickups, you can include incentives in separate caregiver kits with instructions on how to reward readers at specific milestones.

Fun and Engaging Take-Home Activities for Summer Reading

Here are some fun, simple take-home activities you can provide to program participants to keep them engaged this summer. Include the take-home activities on your online or paper reading trackers to encourage participants to complete them. Ask them to share images with you on a summer reading Padlet or on social media with a library-specific hashtag.

Early Literacy1. Boost Early Literacy and Math Skills

If your participants can’t come to storytime, bring the storytime to them! Create bundles of two to three picture books and include a caregiver guide that has prompts, such as “How many socks are on this page? Let’s count them!,” “Tell me the colors you see on this page,” and “I see a cat and a hat. Those words rhyme. What other words rhyme with ‘cat’ and ‘hat’?”

Also include a copy of these monthly Early Literacy Activity Calendars. You’ll find calendars for June, July, and August for several years, but all the months offer fun and simple activities for caregivers to focus on with their children.

Color Craze Bookmark2. Color Readers Happy 

What could be better than the relaxing rhythm of coloring paired with encouraging statements? Color Craze Positive Word Bookmarks come in packs of 200, so there are plenty of positive messages, such as Peace, Live, Shine, and Hope, to pass around. 

STEM and reading-themed Color Craze bookmarks, journals, and mini poster coloring sheets provide participants with blank templates for creativity.  

Pair these activities with virtual read-alouds of The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Harold and His Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, or The Crayon Box That Talked by Michael Letzig. 

Ideas for incentives include READ Colored Pencils, Tie-Dye Lanyard, and Color Craze Jumbo Stickers.

Makeables3. Encourage Creativity with Cut-and-Color Kits

Makeables are not only fun — they’re educational! Kids can explore flying insects and create winged bookmarks, let their imaginations run wild while making their own tiny towns, create multidimensional art with 3D shapes, turn themselves into robots, or decorate their space with customized pennants

With 50 designs per package printed on sturdy paper, you’ll be able to offer activities to everyone, and the book pairings are endless. Try sharing Windows by Julie Denos, Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons, Wodney Wat’s Wobot by Helen Lester, If You’re a Robot and You Know It by David Carter, Triangle by Mac Bar, or Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets by Hena Khan.

Weaving Art4. Introduce Kids to Weaving Arts 

Kids as young as 7 can make their own baskets by weaving with a variety of materials. Roylco Basket Bases come in packs of 25, and each base can be paired with common household materials like paper strips or yarn to make a one-of-a-kind basket. 

Create a bowl of your own and take a picture to provide participants with inspiration (and you with a new candy dish!). Kids can decorate the bases of their baskets and use strips of construction paper or newsprint strips, raffia, or yarn to weave beautiful patterns into them. (You can include weaving materials in your kits too, along with a copy of the simple directions that come with the bases.) 

Pair this activity with a virtual storytime featuring Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward or Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola. Older participants can enjoy titles such as Los Ojos Del Tejedor: The Eyes of the Weaver by Christina Ortega or Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave by Monty Roessel.

Gardening with Grand Daughter5. Cultivate Young Gardeners

Invite a master gardener in your community to do a virtual presentation with kid-friendly tips on how to start a garden, and then provide seed packets with instructions for young gardeners. Encourage kids to track the progress of their budding plants by drawing each stage and writing their observations as they watch them grow. Have them submit photos of their fully grown plants so you can see them enjoying their beautiful flowers or delicious veggies.

Seeds could include sunflowers, petunias, pansies, dill, lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, and more. Direct parents to the resources at Kids Gardening for further exploration. 

Pair with books such as When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, or The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins. 

Ideas for incentives include Fun Facts Food Bookmarks and I Picked a Good Book Scratch-and-Sniff Stickers.

Young Artists6. Support Budding Artists

Inspire young artists to create with kits that include “how to draw animals” step-by-step bookmarks, as well as craft supplies such as craft sticks, pom-pons, chenille stems, assorted paper, color-diffusing paper, and so on. Provide challenges within each kit or do a weekly challenge and have participants share their creations. Challenges could include the following:

  • Create a piece of art that uses three different shapes. 
  • Create a sculpture out of clay or recyclables.
  • Create a piece of art that shows your favorite animal.
  • Create a piece of art that shows the craziest, most delicious cake ever!

Share participants’ art in a virtual art gallery Padlet or on your Facebook page. You can also recommend apps for online art exploration, such as this list from Getting Smart and The Art of Education University

Share books such as The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (don’t miss the great resources on the 

International Dot Day website), Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, My Museum by Joanne Liu, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe, or Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.

Ideas for incentives include Color Craze Journals, Create Bookmarks, and Be Creative Bookmarks.   

Kid working on Paper Art7. Practice the Paper Arts

Create virtual programming showing kids of all ages how to make paper-folding origami art and paper-cutting kirigami art, and provide personal kits for them to practice. Kits can include several sheets of plain or patterned origami paper or kirigami paper to practice, along with origami bookmarks kids can use as guides. 

There are many great videos on YouTube you can leverage for your programming, including these playlists from Art for Kids Hub and Red Ted Art

Read-alouds and suggested reading include Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr, Butterflies for Kiri by Cathryn Falwell, Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O’Connell George, and The Paper Crane by Molly Bang. 

Reward readers with Big Mouth Bookmarks, and encourage them to try their hand at creating their own!   

How to Draw Bookmarks8. Go Wild This Summer

Give kids permission to go wild with one of their favorite topics — animals! Animal Fun Facts Bookmarks encourage exploration of nonfiction topics. Participants can share the fun facts they learned from the bookmarks or share additional facts they learned in a community Padlet or on your social media pages. 

Cool Critters Mini Activity Cards and Animal Book Review Cards will help keep young minds active and inspire kids to create their own creatures using the following: 

Provide animal drawing books from your collection, as well as popular nonfiction and fiction titles, and encourage participants to write their own creature short stories, poems, or plays. Then share everyone’s creations in an online art gallery!

Possible prizes for wild readers include Big Mouth Bookmarks, Cool Critter Stickers, or Woodland Animals Stickers.

Read Your Way Across America9. Send Kids on a Summer Reading Road Trip

Challenge participants to read a book set in each state or region or read books written by authors from each state. This can be done as an individual challenge, with family members, or as teams. Provide book suggestions, such as these lists from Gerber, the Wrapped in Foil Blog, and Read Across America

With the Read Your Way Across the USA Literary Scavenger Hunt Kit, you can give participants their own booklets and stickers to track their reading progress.

Encourage readers to become writers and send reading-themed postcards to each other to recommend books they’ve read over the summer. They can also send them to you at the library to share on a display when your library opens back up to the public.

Regional Word Bookmarks will inspire curiosity about the unique language of each state or region. Have participants research more regional words or illustrate one of the words on the bookmarks.

Travel-themed incentives include Have Book Will Travel Stickers and Bookmarks.

Kids building with sticks10. Launch a STEM Challenge 

Present participants with at-home design challenge kits, such as making a catapult. Each participant will need nine craft sticks, seven rubber bands (two will be extra), and one plastic spoon (a regular spoon can be used). See how Ms. Jennifer does it here

With Strawbees, kids can create 3D designs using straws and connectors. Divvy up the school kit and provide participants with enough straws and connectors to do one or more of the 90 projects included in the kit. Reproduce instructions for some of the simpler projects and place them in each bag with the straws and connectors. 

Send home colorful craft sticks and challenge students to combine them with recyclables to build a home or boat for their figurines or a habitat for their small toy animals. You could also include a small animal figurine in each kit and ask kids to build a habitat for it. 

Kids can take it up a notch from traditional craft sticks with Roylco® Structure Sticks, which are colorful, flexible sticks that feature notches, slots, and hexagonal keyholes for endless building options. Kids can twist and snap them to create simple objects like tables and boxes or build more complex designs like space crafts and moon stations. Challenge participants to create different designs each week, such as bridges, buildings, or homes for their plastic figurines.

Kids can also combine these building tools with recyclables they find at home. Encourage them to watch the video Caine’s Arcade to inspire them to invent something new. 

Share Andrea Beaty’s books and others, including Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen, Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming, or Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams.

Ideas for rewards include STEM/STEAM Coloring Sheets and Bookmarks, How To Bookmarks, and How Do Bookmarks.

Additional Summer Reading Rewards and Incentives

Reward readers throughout the summer with economical incentives. 

Grand Prize Ideas 

Family Fun: Want fun prizes that families will enjoy together? Discover StickTogether posters, interactive and collaborative posters that use over 3,000 stickers each to complete. The whole family can work on a mosaic poster together and have a beautiful piece of art featuring a castle, pirate, unicorn, exploration eye, and more, to commemorate their work.  

Giant tabletop coloring sheets also provide a multigenerational activity that brings families together to create. 

Animal Theme: Reward wild readers with Elephant & Piggie Finger Puppets or I Love to Read Plush Puppies.

Travel Theme: Provide travel-themed prizes, such as a giant 50 states coloring sheet or 50 states jigsaw puzzle. 

Art Theme: Keep kids creating with Creativity Street® Watercolor Paint Sets, Roylco® Junior Paint Spritzers, Roylco Stencils, or other art supplies. 

Building Theme: Reward engineering-focused readers with TeacherGeek Activity Kits.   

Garden Theme: Consider gardening gloves and seed packets as rewards. Larger prizes could include hydroponics labs, which give budding gardeners and scientists an amazing 360-degree view of growing plants.  

Keep Up the Great Work!

Even though your summer reading program will look a little different this summer, with some alterations and creativity you’ll still find ways to promote a love of learning and reach every reader! 

For further reading, check out the “Checklist for Library Curbside Pickup Services” and “How to Quarantine Public Library Materials.”


Liz Bowie

Liz Bowie

Marketing Content Manager at Demco, Inc.
Liz is the Marketing Content Manager for Demco. Her background includes editorial management and product development of innovative and time-saving tools for schools and libraries, with an emphasis on Common Core, literacy and math. The products she and her team have developed, including classroom games, learning centers and professional development resources, have garnered 46 industry awards for excellence in education. Liz is passionate about promoting literacy through her work and the work of others. If you are interested in sharing your ideas and programming tips on Demco’s Ideas and Inspiration blog or have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered, contact Liz at lizb@demco.com