Bonus Episode: #191 – Fun Summer Challenges

BookWorthy and Books that Spark each offer summer challenges for families. Listen to learn more and to join in the summer fun!

Our Guest: Valerie Fentress

Valerie Fentress is a mom of three boys with a passion for growing a love for God in young kids. Whether that is in the books and articles she writes or on Sunday morning as a preschool storyteller. Her book An Easter Bunny’s Tale was an AWSA Christian Picture Book finalist. Valerie considers books a love language and loves talking about children’s books on her BookWorthy Podcast.

Show Notes/Transcript:

Terrie (00:09):

Welcome to “Books that Spark.” This is a bonus episode in conjunction with BookWorthy podcast because we both have a special challenge for your families this summer. For BookWorthy, she is offering a challenge for reading 100 books over the summer and with Books that Spark, we’re offering a challenge to families to memorize a whole chapter of scripture over the summer break. So we have certificates and stickers and bookmarks and things to offer you if you complete the challenge, items to help you as you go through the challenge, charts to keep track of the books you’ve read, and different things that you can use along the way. So let’s find out more as we join the conversation. I’m excited today because Valerie Fentress is with us. Hey Valerie, glad you could join us.

Valerie (00:57):

Happy to be here, Terrie.

Terrie (00:59):

Well, we’ve been talking about summertime. We always are trying to figure out what to do with the kids over the summer, how to make it special and meaningful, and we both have things going on this summer that we want to share with our audiences. So why don’t you start by telling us about your summer program you have.

Valerie (01:16):

Well, Terrie, I do a podcast called the BookWorthy Podcast where I get to interview authors, which you yourself have been on I do believe, yes.

Valerie (01:24):

This summer I decided to take a system that I have done with my boys, probably for the last, I don’t know, five to seven years and make it available for the book or the audience. And that’s just a hundred book challenge where I challenge my kids to read 100 books over the course of the summer break. And I know that sounds like a lot, but if you break it down, they usually get about 10 to 11 weeks of summer. So that would be about, you know, 10 books a week. And so that doesn’t seem quite as daunting, you know, when you break it down that way. And my kids, depending on their reading level, have other extra challenges in there too. But it’s just a spur on a love of reading. We’ve tried library book challenges and bookstore book challenges, but the prizes never seem to motivate my kids to remember to do it.

Valerie (02:16):

But with the BookWorthy Challenge, there is like for every 10 books you read, you as a family get to decide what that prize is. And it could be something, a prize, like a candy bar as candy is not something that we have around our house a lot or just an outing with mom. You know, it’s a way to make memories throughout the summer as well as just getting them to want to read and to have something that they can put their mind on that. Okay. Yeah, I do want to go get a sonic drink with dad on Sunday. You know, I do want to go, you know, bake cookies with Mom. Like those are things that are very tangible in my kids’ minds. Whereas a random book at the library or a list of books that they don’t really care about is not gonna motivate them. So that’s what I’m hoping to do with this BookWorthy Summer Reading Challenge is just to include others in something that I have found that’s really motivated my kids to read over the summer.

Terrie (03:11):

I love that. And I love giving the parents the idea of, you know, doing something special every 10 books. I noticed you’re offering ways to keep track of all of that. And so what are those, what do you have that you’re giving people to keep track of their reading?

Valerie (03:25):

Well, over on my website, I have a PDF that anyone can download if you click the link and it just has three different ways of tracking, whether you have young kids that can’t write down titles of books or anything. There is just a color-a-book tracking sheet so that they can just color in a book every time that they read one. And it’s broken up into 10 books. So it’s easy for tracking those hundred books. Then there’s a way of tracking a hundred books by writing down the titles. My kids were getting sneaky with just the color-in tracking and they were doubling up on books and that wasn’t quite fair. So they had to start writing down the titles of the book so that they didn’t do a repeat book. And then there’s also a bingo board. Because sometimes just writing down a book is a little boring, but if you have a bingo board that you can go through and do, okay, what if I read a book by a historical figure? What if I read a book at the park? Just kind of different ways of engaging our kids to explore different types of books and different places to read. And just making reading fun is really the goal.

Terrie (04:29):

I love that. That’s great. That’d be fun. That’s the one I would choose. I like that.

Valerie (04:34):

There is a parent one also. Because I know my kids last summer, they’re like, mom, why don’t you do a reading challenge? And I was like okay. I don’t think I could do a hundred books of my books in 10 weeks. But, so we put together a parent bingo board also so that parents can join in the fun.

Terrie (04:52):

Cool. Now do you have one for like older kids who are reading novels, lengthy novels, that’s a little different. Do you have that available?

Valerie (04:59):

The systems that I have can be done for any type of reader. The way that I break it down is given into in the instructions in the PDF. So for kids that are kind of second grade and below that are still just kind of discovering books, not really confident readers yet. Pretty much any book counts. So I’m not very picky. But then I, as you know, my kids’ parents, I think, okay, I have one kid who’s at one reading level and I have another kid that’s at another reading level and I have one kid who’s dyslexic. And so I have to kind of manage okay, of these 10 books and each page X amount has to be 200 pages or more. Whereas the other books could be graphic novels, audio books, picture books, anything. And so just kind of, you have the flexibility as the parent to manipulate the tracking sheet as you feel the need for your kids no matter their age.

Valerie (05:51):

But it really is just about encouraging kids to read and that there are so many different types of reading. I know for my dyslexic kiddo, he gets a little overwhelmed every summer with this idea of reading a hundred books. Because reading is a challenge for him. But for him I make sure we have audio books available, and we do lots of audio books in the car, you know, and we just, you know, graphic novels are big part of his reading logs. So just making sure that this is accessible for all types of readers.

Terrie (06:18):

That’s great. I love that. If they finish the challenge, you offer some awards at the end, what do you have available for those who finish?

Valerie (06:27):

Well at the end of the PDF there is an, I’m a winner page that kind of says, you know, talking about what your favorite book was or least favorite book. Because, you know, there sometimes are books that we just don’t finish because they just don’t like them. But, and just kind of talking just a little fill out sheet that they could fill out and mail to me. And when they mail that with a self-addressed envelope, I will send them some bookmarks, some stickers, a certificate that says that they are a BookWorthy champion. And then also just kind of a list of my favorite books.

Terrie (06:58):

Oh, that’s great. I love that. Well this is fun. I think that’s a great idea, and I hope everyone joins in. That’ll be cool. So I will have this on my blog post and on social media as well, so that they can link to your website and sign up. And then I’m doing a little bit different this year. Every summer–all year long, we have a Bible memory challenge where we have two in seven, two verses in seven days each week of the school year. And then over the summer we take a block of scripture and memorize a block of scripture. And this year we’re doing Proverbs chapter four, and that’s 27 verses in 12 weeks. So we include all the weeks of June, July, and August, even though school actually starts, usually for most people before the end of August, we just go ahead and include the 12 weeks.

Terrie (07:45):

On ours, they memorize 27 verses and we have little worksheets and coloring pages and things they can download from my website. They’re not up yet, but they will be soon. And they can download those and sign up for the challenge. And then at the end of the summer they can go to my website and simply download the certificate and the stickers and the bookmarks and have the digital copies for free. They don’t have to do anything else, just download them. Or if they want to receive actual stickers and an actual official certificate, they can also purchase that, which covers the postage. That’s all we’re charging for is the postage. And I will send that to them. They just have to give me their address when they complete the project. So those will all be on my website. I will have the link in the show notes to that page where they can sign up and download the worksheets and coloring pages and all the fun stuff.

Terrie (08:37):

And then also if they choose to do the digital, they can download that at the end of the challenge. So I hope that families will take these opportunities and can make this summer meaningful for their families to do. You know? Sure. It’s fun to hang out at the beach or the backyard or whatever, but then to also have some purpose behind what we’re doing all summer long by memorizing scripture and reading some great books. And one of the things our family likes to do too over the summer and anytime we travel, anytime we’re doing a car trip, we read a book together. And recently we read Shoemaker is his last name. I can’t think of his first name all of a sudden.

Valerie (09:13):

Tim Shoemaker?

Terrie (09:14):

Yes, yes, yes, yes. You’ve had him on your podcast, right?

Valerie (09:17):

Not yet, but I’ll get him. Not yet.

Terrie (09:19):

Yeah, I’m, I’ve asked him to be on mine too, so hopefully we’ll both have him on this next year. But I have one of his books called Code of Silence. It’s a long novel, but it is so good. Oh my goodness. We read it and my kids are grown, you know. So we read this on our way to Indiana and back, and we couldn’t wait to get in the car and get back into the book because it was so compelling and so suspenseful through the whole thing. But it is a scary one. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat while you’re driving down the road. But we read that one together and so that’s something we like to do with our summer reading, is read together as a family. And then of course if your listeners did that, then they could count that as one of the books for each of the children.

Valerie (10:05):

Most definitely.

Terrie (10:06):

I like his devotionals, but his novels, they’re really tightly written. And they keep you going. So have you read any of his?

Valerie (10:15):

I’ve read a couple of his because he tends to write with boys in mind, and since I’m a boy mom. Yeah, it definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps you guessing the whole way.

Terrie (10:27):

Yes. All the way through. So, that one was just on my mind as we were talking about this. I thought that would be a good fun summer read for a whole family to read together.

Valerie (10:37):

Most definitely.

Terrie (10:38):

Well, this is fun. I hope people do this and can sign up, and I know, like you said, there’s other organizations that do some different challenges, but this one kind of puts the control in the parents’ hands a little more. We’re not saying you have to read certain books, which some of the bookstores, they actually have a list you’re limited to. And we’re not saying that so I love that. Or our Bible memory. We’re not saying which version you need to memorize the verses in because I know certain families have certain versions of the Bible they prefer. I recommend the Easy-to-Read version for children. It’s my favorite to use with children. So anything I put online will have that version. But you are not required to use that version to do the challenge. So parents are free to do whatever, and we will have puzzles and different things to help you as you go through: some songs and different things to help with the Bible memory. And if you have any questions, I’m sure if you have any questions about how to help a reluctant reader or help your children with Bible memory, you can ask either one of us on our websites or our emails, and we’d be happy to help you with that and encourage you along the way.

Valerie (11:43):

Most definitely.

Terrie (11:44):

Anything you want to add?

Valerie (11:45):

No, just to encourage parents that you know, you set the culture of your home and to set the culture in the summer to make reading and even Bible memory, just part of what your family does just as much as going on a vacation. And I think that my kids look forward to this reading challenge every summer just because we make it really fun and engaging. And I think that, you know, allowing our kids to have fun in our own home is always a great idea.

Terrie (12:10):

Amen. That’s a good point. All right, well thank you so much for taking the time for this little podcast, this bonus podcast. I’m excited to get the news out, and I hope we both have lots of people sign up and take the challenge.

Valerie (12:22):


Terrie (12:24):

Alright, thank you. Thank you for joining us for this special bonus episode of “Books that Spark.” On our episodes, we try to encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you haven’t watched our usual episodes, we talk about different books that you can use when you’re wanting to open up some important conversations with your children. Also on BookWorthy, she talks with authors about wonderful books that we can use in helping create the family dynamic and family culture that we want to have for our kids. So join in and watch these episodes and listen to these episodes. We hope they bless you. We create them to help families. And you can check out my website, to find any links to my podcasts, and you can go to to find her links to her podcast. We are so glad you joined us today and hope this was a blessing to you, and we hope to hear from you at the end of the summer of how you have completed the challenges. Have a wonderful summer!

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her newest book, A World of Pancakes, just launched and is available at Her devotional for families, Building Character through Picture Books: 25 Family Devotions Based on Favorite Picture Books, is available on her website and through Amazon.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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