To avoid the reading slump and keep your kids reading this summer, host a reading party! What better way to motivate your kids to read than to offer a party to celebrate some of their favorite books?

Get your kids involved in selecting the theme, deciding on the guest list, and preparing for the party.  Try some of these ideas or come up with your own.

1. Come as a Character Party

Here’s a fun twist to the classic “Come as you are party.” Invite guests to come as a character from their favorite summer reading book. Encourage guests to dress the part. When all the guests have arrived, play a game of "20 Questions" to determine each guest’s literary identity. Spotlight one guest by having the other guests ask 20 yes-no questions to determine the character they are dressed as. Then have guests read an excerpt or tell about an exciting event from the book involving the character. Young children can show pictures from their books.

2. Reading Under the Stars Party

For younger children, set up camp in your backyard including a tent, sleeping bags, flashlights, and lanterns. Invite guests to come to the party once the stars are out. Then sit around a real or mock fire pit and tell about your favorite books. What camp-out is complete without S’mores as a special treat? To make a S’mores put a roasted marshmallow and a chocolate bar between two graham crackers. Yum!

No stars in your high-rise neighborhood or the weather or bugs won’t cooperate? No worries. Bring this party inside by pitching a small tent in the living room. Decorate the ceiling with glow-in-the dark stars, turn out the lights, and you have an indoor camping party. And don’t forget the S’mores! Marshmallows can be melted with adult supervision in the microwave.

3. Book Exchange Party

Invite your friends and neighbors to bring books they've finished reading to a book exchange party. No special theme needed although you may want to have one (for example you may want to specify picture books only or mystery books). Ask guests to bring 1 to 5 books they are finished reading (and that they enjoyed!). Provide each guest with one note card for each book he or she brought to write a summary of the book and other helpful information such as a critique and what sort of reader the book might appeal to.  (You may want to send these cards out with the invitations to allow the guests time to write something thoughtful and prevent a party lull as everyone is writing on their cards instead of interacting.)

At the party, decorate a table for guests to place their books and note cards. Have a separate table for refreshments. You may want guests to provide a verbal “sales pitch” for their books particularly if your guests are younger. Encourage everyone to choose a new book to take home.

4. Book Potluck

Host a good old fashioned potluck. Invite your guests to bring a dish or drink that represents the book they are reading, such as a favorite food or drink of one of the characters or a food or drink from the time of the setting of the book. Provide guests with note cards to tell about their dish and how it connects to their stories. Encourage guests to include the recipe to share!

Set up a buffet table for the food, provide the paper plates, napkins, and utensils, and you’re all set! Don’t worry about what foods guests will be bringing, even if everyone brings a dessert. Somehow these types of parties always work out. You may want to have a simple drink such as lemonade available.

5. Cookbook Cook-Off

Remember that not all reading needs to be in story books or novels. Your older children may enjoy hosting a cook-off. Choose a popular cookbook and challenge guests to prepare a dish from the cookbook. You may want to set the category of dish such as chicken main dishes, desserts, summer soups, or salads. Or you may want to set the key ingredient such as chicken, bananas, or peanut butter. You can set the theme of this party as specific or as broad as you want.

Provide the table settings, including the paper plates, bowls, cups, and utensils. Award prizes to the best dish. Have the guests vote on their favorite dishes. You may want to have categories such as “Spiciest” or “Creamiest” or “Most Visually Appealing” so that more than one person goes home with a prize.  

6. And the Winner Is…

Host your own book version of the Academy Awards. Include in the invitations a nominating form that includes such categories as Best Female Character, Best Male Character, Best Setting for a Book, and of course, Best Book. Encourage the guests to include a rationale for their nominations. Have them return their nominations to you a few days before the party. Then go through the nominations and determine the winners. Winners can be determined by popularity. If no nomination in the category receives them popular vote, then the winner can be selected based on the rationale written by the nominator. Encourage guests to prepare acceptance speeches should any of their nominations win.

Whatever party idea you choose, the theme of the party is not as important as planning a fun time to celebrate books and give your child some motivation to read this summer. You might just be setting the course for creating a lifetime reader!