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.
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.
With the majority of schools in Ohio losing state funds or receiving no increases, finding that money may become more difficult over the next two years.
Fortunately, the state was awarded a 35 million dollar Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, helping to boost those shortfalls.
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.
Other programs in the state, like the Early Childhood Advisory Council, utilize the funds for the most significant impact on young learners.
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.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson saw the need to help schools with students that were struggling, but not dictate how that aid was provided. Title I of the Act stated that grants would be given to schools to help low-income families. The grants would be distributed to the state education agencies (SEA), who would then distribute them to the local education agencies (LEA). The LEAs would then allocate the Title I funds to the appropriate schools, who would spend them at their discretion. Over the years the grants have been spent in a variety of ways, from adding more teachers to classes to purchasing technology to help students learn outside the classroom. However, studies have shown that these methods have limited effects on improving test scores.
[bctt tweet=”The average class size in Ohio elementary schools is just over twenty-one students to one teacher.”]
Many school districts use their title one grants to add paraprofessionals, teachers aides with limited training, to the classes with struggling students. The objective of the aides is to relieve some of the pressure that is put on the teachers to help the students. This may be the case for the teachers, but for the students it is a different story. In Tennessee, Project STAR used funds to add paraprofessionals to the classroom. It was found that adding these aides, while giving teachers more time to focus on the students, did not significantly help with test scores. When asked at the end of the study about smaller class sizes or adding aides, 71% of teachers preferred a smaller class size (Boyd-Zaharias and Pate-Bain, 1998).
Another drawback of utilizing paraprofessionals is the varying degree of training they bring to the classroom. In a 1999 assessment of the Title I program, the U.S. Department of Education found that “paraprofessionals in high-poverty schools tend to have less formal education than those in low-poverty schools, and they are often assigned to teach-sometimes without a teacher present.” The report acknowledges their contributions to the community, but also notes that utilizing them as extra hands to do paperwork or meet with parents should be phased out. It does not directly help students improve their skills, which is the function of a Title I grant.
Even with the addition of other sets of hands and additional time for teachers to be with the students, there is nothing that can substitute the benefits of having smaller classes.
Schools add the aides to help manage the ever-increasing class sizes in some areas of the country. This does give teachers the ability to provide a little more attention to students that are falling behind in reading. However, that attention does not translate into higher scores. The additional time added was, on average, just twenty-five more minutes a day over the course of a week (Rowan, B. and L. F. Guthrie, 1989). Even with the addition of other sets of hands and additional time for teachers to be with the students, there is nothing that can substitute the benefits of having smaller classes. Project STAR also showed that when the number of students in a class rose above eighteen, teachers has less time to spend with lower performing students. This can disproportionately hurt low-income students. According to a 2007 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the average class size in Ohio elementary schools is just over twenty-one students to one teacher.
The cost of intervention is much higher, and less effective, than the cost of prevention. Utilizing Title I funds on programs that stop the slide from happening, like Kids Read Now, can give local education agencies and schools more fiscal flexibility. The funds saved can then be used for other programs or technology to help students learn math and reading. There are movements to help that money be used for in school WiFi and other methods to secure internet access at student’s homes to further reduce learning gaps. What could you do at your school with more funds?
Kids Read Now is here to stop the summer reading slide and help struggling readers become proficient readers. Our summer reading program produces remarkable results for school districts seeking to raise K-3 reading scores, and we do it for about 10 percent of the cost of traditional intervention programs. Even though Kids Read Now is far less expensive than traditional intervention, we know that school districts must still stretch tight budgets for funding programs. The good news is that funding for the program that raises reading scores is out there, and Kids Read Now can help schools find it.
Here are some places to start!
Title I Funding
The federal government has been contributing Title I funding since 1965. The purpose of these grants is to help schools with large populations of low-income and disadvantaged students boost academic achievement. The U.S. Department of Education states that Title 1 provides “financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.” Assistance for reading programs is part of that deal, too. Title I money can be used for additional instruction in summer reading programs that “extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.” Kids Read Now also offers free webinars with our expert, Laura Bemus. It is an opportunity to ask your questions to an expert on the application process for Title I funding.
Read more about Title I.
Dollar General Literacy Foundation
Dollar General’s charitable wing sets aside grant money primarily to promote K-12 literacy. The foundation has five grant programs that support adult and family literacy, strong libraries, and reading programs for schools.
The foundation’s Youth Literacy Grant is an especially valuable resource for school districts seeking help from organizations, such as Kids Read Now, that aim to boost reading proficiency for struggling readers. The Youth Literacy Grant provides funding for the following initiatives:
- Implementing new or expanding existing literacy programs
- Purchasing new technology or equipment to support literacy initiatives
- Purchasing books, materials or software for literacy programs
Grow Your Giving
Kids Read Now works together with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to bring grant opportunities to school districts. The mission is to provide matching grant money to enhance existing Title I funding.
This grant opportunity is for school districts that set up the Kids Read Now program for three years and track spring and fall reading scores, measuring the growth over time for program analysis. The grant then covers fifty percent of the first program year, and with additional funds for years two and three, the grant eventually covers one full year out of the three of the program.