A sibling reading challenge is a great way to constructively channel the competitive nature of siblings. You could start it annually in the weeks leading up to the start of school as a sneaky way to gear your kids up for the academic year -- or anytime you want to redirect competitive energy. If your kids really get into it, don't be surprised if they continue it on their own well into adulthood. Really! (Heck, start one with your own siblings at the same time!)
Establish the ground rules
First of all, establish the ground rules. What is the duration of the challenge? A week? A month? Summer vacation? Spring break? What will it mean to "win?" Total number of books read? Or pages of books? And will varying reading levels play into it? If you have one very fluent reader and one just starting out easy chapter books, you might want to count two pages for one child to one page for the other, or some other variation.
And if one or more of your kids has a tendency to, you know, stretch the number of pages read beyond reality, you might need to strategize how to verify the pages and books are actually read. You can probably do this easily by scanning the last couple of pages supposedly read and asking a few questions.
Get to the library
You're likely going to be going through a lot of books. Make sure your library cards are up-to-date, any previous fines paid up, and schedule library visits to support all this reading. Talk to the children's librarian about suggested books for each of your children's ages, look for book series, favorite authors and the like. There are so many great books out there. Extending the challenge is always an option!
Set up some rewards
While for one child, "beating" their sibling may well be enough, the whole family really wins in this kind of a competition. When the reading challenge is over, give your kids a reward for a competition well-played -- and may be essential if one of your kids is a little reticent. It could be an outing to a favorite attraction, or a trip to the penny candy store, or even better, a trip to the bookstore to pick out a great book to continue the reading.
A sibling reading challenge doesn't just channel competitive energy. It advances your children's reading skills and generally supports literacy. Who knows? Your reticent reader might find the series he or she just loves, and you may see increased calm and support among your kids with comments like, "You've gotta read this book! It's great!"
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