How do you get kids excited about books? Over my 25 years of teaching, I’ve discovered many ways to spark excitement. Here are 10 to get you started:
Start an After-School Book Club
Invite a guest reader from the community to kick off the meetings. After the read-aloud, the kids spread out to read independently or with a friend. You can also invite a high school sport team or club to buddy read with the kids.
Be a “Book Fairy”
Use your points from Scholastic book clubs or grants to gift books to kids. Try to give every student a book by the end of the year. Kids love the surprise and owning their own book is more special than borrowing, so they treasure it.
Invite Guest Leaders as Readers
Leaders in schools and the community love to be a part of this and your students will be inspired to see what some of their role models read. Invite the football coach, the mayor, chief of police, a local veterinarian, and others to share a favorite book.
Encourage Kid-Created Contagious Book Reviews
When a student reads a book they love, have them create a book review to share with the class. You can do these live, or have kids create a video. You can even take the videos, create a QR code for them, and adhere the QR code inside the cover of the books!
Hold a Reading Marathon
The day of the “marathon,” have kids wear running gear, create paper running bibs, allow healthy snacks and water bottles, and read all day! Have kids read independently, in pairs, Zoom in guest readers and authors, and YOU should read aloud to them too.
Kick off the Year with a Book Tasting Event
Use tablecloths and place settings and serve a pile of books on plates. Provide wish lists for your students to jot down the books they are interested in reading that year. This is a great way to get kids familiar with your classroom library and excited about what they get to read! (Use their lists to get ideas for book fairy visits too!)
Host Book-Bartering Days
Kids bring in a book that they’re willing to part with in exchange for another book from someone in the classroom. Students give a 30 second pitch on what they loved about the book they’re offering. Arrange the books on tables and allow students to make their selections.
Get Your Own Little Free Library
As a class, write a grant for a Little Free Library for your school. Your class will love this service project and visit it often! To fill the library, send home a request for gently used books as a donation to the Little Free Library. You will be surprised at how many books come in!
Host Chat and Chews
Choose a book you have multiple copies of. You can make book marks with the dates for each meeting and what chapters need to be read each time. On assigned dates, enjoy your lunch and discuss the chapters of the book together!
Have an Author Visit!
I may be biased, since I’m a children’s book author who LOVES to do author visits, but I truly believe in their power. Kids love to meet authors in person and have a renewed passion for reading and writing afterward. From hearing the story behind the stories, or special secrets the author shares, it is a memorable experience.
When kids see you make reading a priority and a treat to be enjoyed, they are on their way to becoming life-long readers.
What are the priorities in your school district? Although sometimes we get lost in athletics and safety, especially during this unprecedented time with the COVID-19 pandemic, improving reading skills across the district is the most important priority for the success of all students. Often money gets in the way of purchasing research-based programs that work, like Kids Read Now. Funding is available through millions of dollars in state, federal, local, and corporate grants. Let us examine some ideas to help you meet your goal of improving reading skills for students.
Title I Funding
Title I funding is typically the best source and where districts receive the majority of their grant money; however, it is not the only source, and can be combined with other federal and state grants. Although it’s not the only source, it’s the best place to begin due to the size of the dollar allocations. It is important to check data and make changes where this funding is not making an impact.
Are you continuing to do the same thing year after year and getting the same results?
Is your summer school providing data that shows reading improvement for students?
Are you providing summer help for all students to improve reading skills?
If not, stop now and reallocate this funding. Providing a turn-key solution that makes connections with families and extends the school year through the summer for K – 3 students has benefited many students through the Kids Read Now program. The results are proven through independent research.
Other Important Sources
Beyond Title I grants, there are many Federal, State and Local additional grants available and especially currently. These funding opportunities include Federal grants: IDEA to support students with disabilities, Title 3A to support Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, Title 4A to improve student academic achievement, and Title 5B for rural school districts. States also allocate funds to school districts through grants for the Coronavirus and Health and Wellness; these can be used to extend the school year and make up time lost in the spring of 2020 due to the shutdown of schools.
Community and local funds are additional funding sources. These include Rotary, Optimist, Kiwanis, United Way, PTA, PTO, Elks, Eagles, Moose, Veterans organizations, and local foundations and businesses. All of these are good sources to provide funding and volunteer assistance in literacy instruction; especially for Kids Read Now, a nonprofit organization. When organizations and community members know that Kids Read Now extends the school year to close the learning gap that exists for students living in poverty, engages parents and family with a result proven strategy, they are willing to give. It is usually as simple as asking and providing a budget or statistics; both of which are provided by Kids Read Now. It is a great choice with proven results through independent research!
There has never been a better time to engage students through the summer, while limiting in person contact, using summer downtime to provide literacy support that is turnkey, data-driven and offers real time student analytics.
How are Title I funds spent in your school district? This is a question that should be revisited and examined each year. Often educators are overwhelmed with the many requirements of spending Title I funds and the never-ending sales pitches for programs that can best utilize the money. The easiest decision is to continue to spend the grant money the same way that it has been spent in the past.
When revisiting the purpose of Title I, Part A – Improving basic Programs, the money is provided as supplemental funding to state and Local Education Agencies (LEA’s). The funding specifically provides resources to LEAs and schools with high percentages of students from low-income families. Title I resources are intended to improve education quality and help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards with a focus on students that are most at risk of failing.
If you continue to spend Title I funds the same each year, please stop and reflect on these questions: Is there research to support that decision? Are there results or improvements in student’s literacy skills that are documented with data? Are students better prepared to succeed in high school and beyond? It’s also the year that you should ask if a change in spending Title I funds should occur due to the many changes that have taken place in educating students during the pandemic.
Title I funding offers substantial assistance in providing best practices in literacy instruction and improvement. Educators know that improvement of students’ reading skills is at the core of reaching the desired outcomes and improvements for at risk students. Teacher and student days are packed full, especially with remote and hybrid learning options that educators are now facing with the pandemic.
A proven way to gain time is to engage students throughout the summer. Kids Read Now extends the school year to close the learning gap that exists for students living in poverty, engages parents and family with a result proven strategy. Kids Read Now is eligible for use of Title I funds. In fact, it’s a great choice with proven results through independent research. Now is the perfect time to engage students through the summer, while limiting in person contact, using summer downtime to provide literacy support that is turnkey, data-driven and offers real time student analytics.
We call it the “achievement gap” – but isn’t it really an opportunity gap? A closer look at socioeconomic reading disparities — and how we can help your child to close the gap
For decades, efforts to reduce the racial divide on test scores has relied on federal funding to supplement efforts to boost scores among minority students, and this has seen results.
However, regardless of race, the fact is that rich and poor Americans are living, learning, and raising children in increasingly separate and unequal worlds. The income gap is huge, has not narrowed in 50 years, and leads to a large gap in test scores. For high school children, this gap averages four years between students from the highest 10% and lowest 10% income levels.
Students in poverty generally have fewer opportunities to succeed. They are less likely to have two parents at home; their parents are less likely to have a higher education. Children living in poverty generally attend schools with less experienced teachers, are less likely to have books in the home, and are more likely to have food insecurity and home life disruptions. Every one of these opportunity gaps have been shown to hurt learning progress and outcomes.
Two other situations slow down learning progress.
Ubiquitous learning loss experienced by low-income students over the summer
Recent analysis of reading tests given to most low-income students finds that learning loss over the summer varies dramatically. Our experience at Kids Read Now confirms this. Kids, regardless of race, income, or English language proficiency at home, can and do achieve markedly higher learning gains over the summer when parents are engaged, ensure kids read the books that they choose and we provide, and set time to discuss those books.
Talking about books, using the Discovery Sheets inside every book we mail boosts skills significantly. Each Discovery Sheet has questions and activities specifically written for the book. They ask kids to compare what they read with other knowledge they have and different characters they know (text-to-text and text-to-world), to discuss their feelings and experiences (text-to-self), and to go beyond the covers to write and draw stories that spring from the book to the world beyond (imagination/creativity).
Independent research shows that for less than 10 cents a day, kids in our program increase reading scores by 1-2 months over summer. The COVID-19 extended out-of-school time and difficulties with remote learning make this type of mailed reading intervention even more critical.
Rapidly growing dependency on screen time replacing reading time
Tweens spend 5-6 hours a day on screens and teens 7 hours or more on screens. We endorse a simple helper here: #ClickCaptionsON! is a great way for students in 4th grade and beyond to continue reading via captions while absorbing screen content. A dozen studies have shown this will build their reading abilities. Watching a show with captions on for just 30 minutes is the equivalent of reading 30 pages of a 5th grade book.
Closing the opportunity gap begins by having schools using parents as viable, valuable learning resources. Building and focusing on parental engagement processes are proven to work. These “parent training interventions” cost far less than traditional intervention programs that have not narrowed the gap in 50 years.
Educators can be incredibly creative when it comes to learning activities. The ideas that flow from passionate teachers can have some significant impacts on education. The KIPP program is one of those ideas, as is 826 National out of California. The Freedom Writers Foundation is another group that developed from one teacher’s desire to make her students better readers and writers. Other than driven by passionate educators, these programs have one other thing in common – their initial funding came from the teachers themselves.
It may be shocking for some to hear this, but it is not uncommon. In a recent study, it was discovered that over 94% of teachers dip into their own funds for school supplies. Schools have been hit hard in recent years by budget cuts, making it even more difficult for school districts to fund programs to help students. Fortunately other sources exist, offered by government entities and non-profits.
Grants are available to help schools fill the gaps in their budgets, allowing them to maintain existing programs or establish new ones. They are widely available to fund an array of programs, but they are not easy to obtain. As money dries up from state and federal governments, there is more and more competition for grants. With competition being as high as it is, there are a few things you should consider:
Give yourself time to write the grant: The entity giving the grant requires an application. Every application is different. Ensure you do not miss anything on the form by giving yourself ample time to fill out everything.
Search at every level: Educational grants are available at the community level, right up to the federal level. Many grants go unclaimed from year to year because no one applies for them. There are grants from businesses and non-profits as well. Doing a deep search on the internet can turn up a variety of resources.
Know the requirements: The resources distributed by a grant typically are required to be used for a specific goal. Having a plan in place to achieve that goal is just as important as filling out the application properly. Sometimes the grant requires the details of the plan as part of the application.
State your case: Details matter when you are making your case for funding. The more data you have that can support your case, the better the chances you have at winning the resources you need. Gather as many relevant statistics as you can. One reason Kids Read Now can help so many schools is the data we provide the district. That data includes books read and growth of readers over time.
Do some homework: There are many resources out there that will help you fill out grants. You can find examples of well-written grants online, take classes in grant writing, or even hire a professional to write a grant for you. All of these avenues are available to help you get the extra money you need for new programs.
Winning grants is something that will take time and energy to achieve. It takes practice to write grants and a certain level of skill to win them know. But they are worth looking into as a way to bring programs to the school that will help your students. They can jumpstart a program that can improve the education of students through the district. Teachers spend a great deal of their own time and money helping students. By bringing more grant money into the school district, these efforts can be amplified into a lasting piece of your educational endeavors.
Kids Read Now, a 501C(3) nonprofit, was founded in 2010 to expand summer learning and eliminate the summer reading slide. Since its creation, this summer reading program has made an impressive impact on the tens of thousands of children that have participated. They have received books that they choose weekly, encouraging them to read by giving them material that interests them. Impacts that large are difficult to hide, and people have been taking notice. The Clinton Global Initiative was one of the first to recognize the outcomes of this program, followed by South by Southwest (SXSW). We are pleased to announce that we have been recognized by another group and have formed a national partnership with the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to spread the program to a broader audience and help even more students become lifelong readers.
The NSLA, also a 501C(3) nonprofit, is no stranger to the achievement gap. They started working with students in Baltimore in 1992, helping disadvantaged students stay motivated to learn. In 2001 they expanded and became the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, and then the NSLA in 2009. Their mission is “to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s children and youth that help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.” They collaborate with local programs to make them more efficient and more affordable to the communities they serve. Not only do they work hard at the grassroots level, but they build national awareness of the issue. This effort pushes more resources into school districts to help all students keep pace with their peers. Their focus includes monitoring policies that could impact funds directed to those that cannot afford the loss.
Our NSLA partnership’s goal is to make our program more affordable to school districts that serve rural and urban populations. These two groups see the most challenges when it comes to accessing quality learning opportunities over the summer. In addition to the partnership with the NSLA, Kids Read Now is also working with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (GKCCF) on a multi-year, 1 million dollar research grant which will further help school districts afford our turnkey program. Our program is also eligible for any Title I funding received from the government. We are always looking for ways to bring the proven, data-driven results of our work to any school district in need. One of our most important partnerships is with the communities that benefit from having children that are passionate about reading and education.
As we see the costs to school districts fall, we witness the number of students helped dramatically increase. In 2017 alone, our dedicated staff distributed over 80,000 books to over 12,000 children in thirty-four school districts. By the time we get to 2019, with the help of the NSLA and GKCCF, we are anticipating serving over four times that number. We have started in three states, and with the help of our partners, are looking forward to expanding and aiding more of our neighbors in the near future. Kids Read Now is honored work with the NSLA to support their goal of building more successful students through summer learning.
A variety of elements go into building strong readers.
Access to books is crucial, not only in the classroom but at home. Keeping students engaged in reading on a year-round basis is a proven way to keep their reading levels on par with peers. Developing lifelong readers can even help the families improve literacy. But like building any system, all of these improvements require funding.
This grant was created to provide schools with the funds to help students with low literacy scores. The funding applies to students from preschool to 12th grade. The award will be available for three years to provide resources to help students with disabilities, those where English is a second language and those living in poverty.
The state earned the grant by developing a plan that would put this money to the best use. Part of the funds will be going to into the Get It, Got It, Go! program the state has been using for the last six years. The program was developed by the University of Minnesota to assess early indicators of a student’s literacy in preschool.
Ultimately, students are going to see a big boost from this grant. More than 95% of the funds ($33.25 million) will be going directly to the schools. This grant, combined with the improvements made with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, will improve the reading levels at a young age.
This stage of development for children is critical for building critical lifelong literacy skills. Other funds distributed through the year include Title I money and grants through charities that can provide even more support for districts.
Currently, the state is working on the application process. They are looking to offer the applications, as well as a website to help with the process, late in 2017.