The countdown is on. School is coming.

It’s not easy to force yourself to read during the summer. It’s the end of summer and you should be outside taking selfies with nature or inside working on your Fortnite skills. It’s hard to sit still with a book for long enough to take in the words on a page. As much as we might dread it, school is coming soon, get ready. It’s time to force yourself through as much of your summer reading as possible before the end of summer.

Even when teachers assign really great books, a lot of us dread doing the work. And that’s ok. You’re job isn’t to always enjoy the reading (though that would be a plus), it’s to get it done. And one of the best ways to get a miserable, boring task done is to gamify it. 

You can accomplish anything if you gamify it. All it takes is some creativity, a pinch of accountability, and a tolerable amount of actual work.

So here we go. These are the 6 steps to gamifying your summer reading.


1. Know your end goal: 

Start with a blank sheet of paper and a pen (or pencil, you do you). Is your goal to make it to the last page of the book? You might have a more ambitious goal like understanding the story or tracing three different themes through the book. I can’t choose it for you, you know what you are capable of. 

If you’re reading an entire book, you could easily count up the pages for your goal. For example: I’m reading a book that has 100 pages. At the top of my goals page I would write something like: Goal 100 pages.

2. Set up smaller goals. 

Once you’ve set your end goal in place, create smaller landmarks. For instance, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, in my 100 page book, I’d create 25 page landmarks. Make a list of little goals that you can be proud of. Maybe you would rather keep track of your chapters, set up a certain amount of chapters. It’s up to you, the more personal you make it, the more likely you are to actually care about reaching your goal. 

Pro tip: hang your goal sheet somewhere that you have to see it often, this will remind you to work on it when you’re bored. Great options for this are your bedroom door, the bathroom mirror, or even next to the box of Lucky Charms in the kitchen.

3. Give yourself rewards. 

Maybe you have to sit and accomplish all that reading. Once you hit your goals, give yourself some type of reward. This can be as simple as a handful of m&m’s, a bike-ride around the block, or even something as technical as an obstacle course. It’s up to you, you’re in charge.  

Pro tip: randomize your reward. Put six really good ideas into a jar or hat, and draw one at a time. Or give each reward a number and roll dice to select it. The anticipation of an uncertain (but awesome) reward causes your brain to release dopamine which keeps you interested enough to work toward the end goal.

4. Use a timer. Force yourself to read for a certain amount of time. A lot of people use 25 minute clocks, and give themselves a 3-5 minute break after each one 25 minute segment. This way you work hard for a short period of time and at the end your brain gets to relax before jumping back in.

Pro tip: If you want to know about how long it will take you to finish the book, here’s how (skip this tip if you hate math!): 

  1. Time yourself for 10 minutes and count the number of pages you read in that time. 
  2. Divide the total number of pages in the book by the number of pages you read in that 10. 
  3. Multiply that number by 10 for the total minutes it will take to read the book.
  4. If you would like to break it down by hours, divide the total minutes by 60 and you will have the number of hours it will take you to finish your book. 

Example: If the book has 100 pages, and it took you 10 minutes to read 5 pages, then the book should take you around 3 hours and 33 minutes (and 33 seconds, to be exact). 

If you figure out how long it will take you to read the book, you can challenge yourself to beat that time. Even by just one minute. If you need another prize, set up different prizes for time cut off from your original estimated time. 3 minutes could be a piece of candy, 5 minutes 2 pieces, and so on.

Monkey 5. Read it with a friend. Accountability makes a difference. If you treat reading like a race or a competition, it’s far easier to keep working. Books are meant to be talked about, so if you’re looking for a way to enjoy reading, do it with somebody who is fun to talk to. 

Pro Tip: If you’re the kind of person who needs competition, you could create tasks along the way like “draw one scene out of the first 50 pages” or “rewrite the ending,” then have a parent judge the results. Even if you don’t come up with any prizes for these, bragging-rights are best enjoyed when you’ve conquered a challenger. 

Sticking to the Wall6. Stick to whatever rules you make up. Have you ever decided to wake up at a certain time but you hit the snooze button thinking “I’ll wake up at the next alarm.” Then you don’t get out of bed until an hour after your initial alarm? The first time you decide to break your rules, they are broken forever. If you use a timer, or if you set a date to accomplish a certain number of pages by, do your best to stick to those rules or the gamification will just be another broken system. This also builds integrity, so you’re well on your way to being a better reader and a better person. Win, Win!

Gamification won’t take away the work you have to accomplish, but it might trick your brain into enjoying parts of the task. If you have any other dreaded projects to accomplish this summer, try gamifying them. Let us know what you came up!