A Summer Reading Scavenger Hunt

Madelyn Rosenberg

Madelyn Rosenberg

Madelyn Rosenberg is the author of eight books for children, including the Nanny X books and the How to Behave books. She lives with her family in Arlington, Virginia. Learn more about Madelyn at her official website.


July 25, 2016

This summer, I set up my first Summer Reading Scavenger Hunt. Because I live in Virginia, I used a read-local theme, highlighting books by Virginia authors with Virginia tidbits inside. A friend from Massachusetts said she might try something similar in her home state, which made me think that you (yes, you!) could design a reading scavenger hunt of your own. After all, you know your children’s interests better than anybody, which means you can create a tailor-made game that will immerse them in summer reading material.

Know a kid who loves books but doesn’t yet read? Set up a scavenger hunt with some favorite picture books, using drawings instead of questions so they’ll know to search for a ladybug, the moon, or a hairy, scary monster.

Know a kid who’s already reading? Use a scavenger hunt to help them discover new books and new genres -- or look at an old favorite in a new way.


Go to the library or search online to find books that you think will be well suited for your child. The themed book suggestions at Start with a Book is another great place to begin.

Once you have books in hand, thumb through and write out your clues. For instance, if you were reading through Paul Meisel’s See Me Dig, you might write: What do the dogs find in the treasure chest? (Spoiler alert: Gold and some pirate ghosts.) If you were looking through my own How to Behave at a Dog Show, you might ask: What part of the judge’s clothing does Rexie try to eat? (Answer: His pants!) If you’re sending the kids diving into middle-grade novels instead of picture books, you may want to include a page or chapter number as a hint. And remember: The answers can be in the illustrations as well as the words.

Now it’s time to call in the kids! You can have them compete against each other, work together, or go it alone. Explain the rules and encourage them to try to get a taste of each book as they flip through looking for the items on your list. Have them pick at least one book to read when the hunt’s over.

The prizes — bragging rights? a berry-picking excursion? a book? — are up to you.

When you’re done, why not have the kids make up a scavenger hunt of their own? It’s a great way to introduce them to the library catalog or to get them to notice a detail they missed in a well-worn book at home. And it’s a great way for them to show you the books they love the best.

After hunting, make sure the kiddos leave the library clean, with books they don’t check out in the return bin. And make sure you hold onto your questions and answers so you can trade with a friend.

Here are a few ideas for scavenger hunts you can create:

A Hunt for STEM Lovers

Employ both fiction and nonfiction to find questions for young kids who love science and technology — or for kids who need a little encouragement to embrace it. Ask questions like: What does Robot, in Cece Bell’s Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover, like on his pizza? (Answer: Hardware.) Or: What kind of storms begin at the Hellas Basin on Mars? (The answer, which you’ll find in Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet by Buzz Aldrin and Marianne Dyson, is dust storms.) You could also ask more general questions and send them to the stacks for the answers. For instance: What’s an interesting fact about one of the Mars rovers? What does JAVA stand for?

A Hunt for Nature Lovers

Have the kids hit the stacks again to search for answers to questions about the natural world. How fast does a mole dig? (Up to 18 feet an hour, according to Mary Quattlebaum’s poetic Mighty Mole and Super Soil.) How big can a giant clam grow to be? (More than four feet, according to Gail GibbonsCoral Reefs.)

A Hunt for Music and Dance Lovers

Ask questions like: What was the name of Tito Puente’s first band? (Los Happy Boys, according to the bilingual book Tito Puente: Mambo King by Monica Brown, with illustrations by Rafael Lopez.) What hot drink made Celia Cruz think of home? (Coffee with sugar, says My Name is Celia, by the same author&ndasj;illustrator team.) What ballet dancer does the little girl go to see in A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, with illustrations by Floyd Cooper? (Janet Collins.)

You can set up a hunt for middle-school survival tools, for vampires, advice for teens, recipes, sports moves, dance steps, construction equipment – the list goes on. Do you have an idea for a scavenger hunt? Leave it in the comments.

Happy reading – and happy hunting!

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