Summer Reading Challenge: Book Bingo!

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 6, 2017

We at the Flying Pig are a pragmatic crew. We hope to be creative and energetic, but we also know our limits. This translates into a healthy skepticism for new programs; we know they need to be easy to implement, maintain, and close out.
One of the reasons Candlewick’s Where’s Waldo? annual summer contest — in which bookstores engage local retailers in a fun competition that brings customers into all of our stores looking for the hidden Waldo figurine — is that they make it REALLY easy for us, with instructions, all the materials we need, and even some prizes to give away.
When Linda Devlin of Linda’s Story Time bookstore in Monroe, Ct., wrote to the New England Children’s Booksellers Association listserv about her Summer Reading Challenge, I was intrigued. She has fun ideas to make a game out of keeping kids reading great books over the summer, and trying books outside their usual comfort zones. So tonight, I was noodling around with a simple idea for our own summer reading challenge, and here’s what I came up with:

I found a bingo card maker online ( and came up with some ideas for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade readers. (By the way, the template I chose resembles the Where’s Waldo? poster, but that’s just a stripey coincidence. only has about eight template styles, and this is by far the snazziest — plus, it’s summery with the July 4 vibe.)
The categories are pretty broad and plain, but I hope they give kids enough of the kinds of books they already love, while nudging them to try some books they might not gravitate to. When kids get a Bingo of three books, they can choose from a box of fun prizes we have left over from publisher promos: silly pencils, tattoos, stickers, etc. When they get two Bingos, they can choose an advance reading copy from our coveted ARC bookshelf in the back. And if they fill the whole card? They get to come to an end-of-summer book party!
I’ll be working on a set for middle-graders with a more unusual set of challenges. All ideas welcome.
In the meantime, thanks, Linda, for sparking an idea!

2 thoughts on “Summer Reading Challenge: Book Bingo!

  1. Leslie Hawkins

    At Spellbound, we’re trying the ABA’s summer reading program for the first time this year, in part because of the Reading Without Walls theme that’s new this year to support Gene Luen Yang’s initiative. For our first time out of the gate, I’m just using the card provided in the DIY section of ABA’s website and inviting rising 3rd-6th graders to participate. If the interest and participation is strong enough this year, next year I might invest the time in customizing a couple of different versions, for younger readers (including parents reading picture books to young ones) and older readers.
    Here’s to new adventures in summer reading!

  2. Cynthia Compton

    This is so much fun, Elizabeth, and we’re going to borrow the idea! I’m thinking that it would be interesting for picture books, too, geared towards parents. Wouldn’t it be nice to shake up the bedtime routine a little? We’ll work on some picture book lists to help…. perhaps that should be a group project. Booksellers and authors, in your infinite free time, let’s make a list.


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