Saturday, October 21, 2017

How to Host a Super Simple Readathon

Host a super simple Readathon in your school library media center
Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

“You raised enough money to buy us 100 new books!” I told the students in the media center for our school’s first ever Readathon. They broke out in spontaneous applause and cheered before they adjusted their blankets and turned back to their books.

100 new books!

Most of our book budget replaces worn-out copies of titles we already own. Our books do not have a little tape on them--sometimes the yellowed tape is the only thing holding them together. The frayed edges are downright embarrassing, and the soiled pages are just gross.

We needed a way to raise more money for new books, like a second set of Harry Potter books, because no one can ever get the book they need.  Or books on soccer teams.

How about books published in the last year? We never get the newest books. Wishtree and Beyond the Bright Sea and Patina. I can already picture which students should get those books first.

Our school resides in what my administrator refers to as “the middle of the middle.” We are not an affluent school, although a few students come from affluent families. And we don’t qualify for Title 1 funds.
So we have to be scrappy and raise funds for anything extra.

And a lot seems to fall into the “extra” category.

Mylar. Book tape. Incentives. Decor. Books over the allotted budget. So I have learned to be resourceful. I came to this school a year ago, and since then I have been awarded 5 grants, held 3 book fairs, and now hosted a Readathon. The students enjoyed the Readathon the most.

Host a super simple Readathon in your school library media center
Our hot chocolate bar was a hit!

Simple concept, simple execution

The idea for a Readathon came from Audra, a fellow media coordinator in the county school district. She said her school earned more from the Readathon than the amount in the media center’s annual budget. I wanted new books. We needed new books!

I pitched the idea to my principal, and in about 3 weeks I threw together a Readathon. We made more profit than we earned from the book fair, and with much less effort, I might add. Although I like a challenge, I never want to reinvent the wheel if I can help it. Maybe some of the suggestions below will be helpful to you.

Steps for a simple and successful Readathon

  1. Get staff buy-in! I enlisted the help of the English Language Arts teachers. I explained the Readathon to them, sent the forms home through them, and collected the money through them.

  1. Schedule carefully. I mean, take time to look at the calendar! Next year I will move the date back because this year it overlapped with a school-wide fundraiser, the chorus/band fundraiser, picture day, and my own book fair (was I on cough medicine when I set the schedule?).

Parents. Were. Tapped. Out.

And yet, because I promised in the letter to spend 100% of the proceeds on new books, we raised a respectable amount of money for our first time.  People want kids to have books.

  1. Send home information in plenty of time. I sent it home 2 weeks before, long enough to let friends and family know, short enough to handle the money for only a week or so. I didn’t count on the teachers who held it on their desks for a week, however. Next year I will send it out 3 weeks ahead.  

The forms stated that all proceeds would go toward the purchase of new books. The first side of the form had blanks for donor names and the amount. The other side described the date, time, and the incentives the students could earn. I also stapled an envelope to the pledge form.

  1. Send info to all school personnel so they know what you tell parents and the schedule for the big day. I let staff know the date as soon as the administration approved it. Next, I sent them all of the info a day or two before I sent it home with the students.

  1. Decide on a list of incentives. Kids will work for that one thing.

Our incentives:
  • Raise $1 and wear a hat for the day (fail, three kids did this).
  • Raise $5 and ALSO come to the library during your ELA class to read. Bring a blanket and pillow to get comfy!
  • Raise $10 and ALSO visit the hot chocolate bar. (A hit!)
  • Raise $15 and ALSO get your name as donor on a bookplate in the front of one of our brand new books (also a big winner!). Students will get to choose which book to label with their name.
  • The top 15 fundraisers who raise at least $15 will get a pizza party! (Students asked me about this each day so they could add to their total and stay in the top 15. Win-win as far as I could tell.)

  1. Get help for the day of the Readathon. Yes, you can manage a room full of kiddos who are reading, but you will need a restroom break at some point!! I needed help to heat water and to pick up the pizzas.

  1. Add up and receipt money quickly. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can spend it and the sooner the students can read the new books they bought.

  1. When the new books arrive, mark them with Washi tape so the students know which books the Readathon bought. Keep the books on a special cart or shelf until their new-ness wears off. (I love washi tape in the library. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen how I use it to mark temporary collections.)

Host a super simple Readathon in your school library media center
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash
At end of the day

”Can we do this every month?” a student asked the principal. He bit into his fourth piece of pizza and washed it down with soda and thoroughly enjoyed himself.

She replied,  “Maybe not every month, but every year for sure.”

I grinned and enjoyed my own slice. After a long but rewarding day, I was ready to sit down and send in my order for 100 new books.

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