Welcome to February! The January Challenge (“Dealing with Difficult Classes in the Library”) was a whopper, so I thought we could do an easier Challenge for February. This month’s challenge has only one major task: hosting a school-wide Book-A-Thon Fundraiser.
Book-A-Thons are a fun way to celebrate World Book Day, Book Week, Literacy Month, author birthdays, Read Across America, back to school, and other literacy events. You can start small with just a book club Book-A-Thon or Library Lock-In, or think big with a month-long, school-wide Book-A-Thon.
Book-A-Thons do not have to be fundraisers, but because of the state of library budgets these days, I decided to design this month’s challenge as a fundraiser.
WHAT IS A BOOK-A-THON FUNDRAISER?
I love Book-A-Thons as fundraisers because they are an easy and fun way to replenish our stripped library budgets in a real and fun way. Students do not sell anything; instead, they collect pledges for each minute they read. Individual donation amounts may be small–probably no more than a few dollars per donation–but added together, it can give your library budget a much-needed boost.
I based this idea from something from my distant past. When I was in elementary and middle school, I participated in my school’s Jump Rope for Heart program. I had a team of friends, and we stayed after school one day to jump rope in intervals for a couple of hours. My team of four or five would take turns jumping for 5 minutes each. The goal was that at least one person on our team was jumping rope at all times.
My family and neighbors would pledge a small amount for each minute I jumped. Let’s say my aunt pledged 10 cents per minute that I jumped. If I jumped a total of 30 minutes, I would collect $3 from my aunt. If my dad pledged 15 cents per minute, I would also collect $4.50 from my dad. The more pledges I collected, the more money I would give to the American Heart Association.
A Book-A-Thon works the same way. It can be done in teams or individually, and it can span a few hours, a week, or even a month.
Before the Book-A-Thon is scheduled to begin, students should collect small pledges from family members and friends. Pledges can be per-minute of reading, or they may be flat donations.
SPECIFIC AND TRANSPARENT GOALS
Before you begin your Book-A-Thon Fundraiser, talk it up with your students. You should have a specific, transparent goal for students to work toward. For example, you might say if we raise $XX, we will use it to buy this. If we raise $XXX, we can buy this. Getting your students excited helps increase participation and, consequently, the amount of funds you raise.
SETTING YOUR SCHOOL-WIDE GOALS FOR THE MONEY COLLECTED
The school-wide goal should be something that students want in the library. This may be student-selected library books, a bigger graphic novel section, additional makerspace materials, a new reading loft, a 3-D printer, etc.
The money should NOT go to curriculum materials or other things students do not care about. Student-raised money should not pay for textbooks or research databases or a new coffeepot in the teacher’s lounge. The students are the ones raising this money; it should be used to purchase items they want (and not what the teachers or school wants).
Not having (or sharing) a specific goal may impact your participation. Fewer students will be motivated by the money just going into the library’s general fund. It’s just not tangible enough. But if you say all money raised will be used to buy more graphic novels or audiobooks, students will be excited to help. Share some titles you plan to buy, and allow students to recommend purchases as well.
Now THAT is motivating!
I cannot emphasize this point enough: Do everything you can to fight against any outside claims on the money raised. This money should be earmarked only for items that your library budget does not cover. It should be for items your students will love and look forward to using.
Library Lock-Ins are a fun and easy way to ease into your first Book-A-Thon Fundraiser. You can use them alone or as part of a longer Book-A-Thon.
Lock-Ins occur only one day for a few hours after school. All reading minutes are logged during this time. If you choose a Lock-in, you know the students actually completed the reading they say they did.
This is also a great option for students whose home environment is not conducive for silent reading, and you also have the option to provide read-alouds and other activities to break it up. Order some pizza, bring some cookies and punch, and trust me, the students will come.
Know that if you are doing a Library Lock-In for the first time, you might want to split up the grade levels. Lots of participation is great, but if a hundred students show up, you could end up with a zoo instead of a Book-A-Thon. You could also recruit some teacher friends if you think your participation will be overwhelming.
Weekend Book-A-Thons are another easy way to ease your way into your school’s first Book-A-Thon fundraiser. Try having students set a reading goal. Create a social media hashtag for students to share their progress over the weekend.
WEEK-LONG AND MONTH-LONG BOOK-A-THONS
Do you need funding for a larger project? Host a longer Book-A-Thon! One week is my favorite time period because I don’t like things to drag out too much. If you do a month-long Book-A-Thon, I suggest breaking it up into four weekly themes or smaller goals.
For example, you might do a “genre of the week” for each week, or ask students to try reading at least one item from a different format (audiobook, graphic novel, poetry, anthology, magazine, newspaper) each week.
SHOULD I OFFER PRIZES?
I am personally not a fan of offering prizes for reading. The big winners are always the students who read voraciously anyway, and the students you really want to encourage to read feel defeated before they even start.
Instead of prizes, I prefer to hold participation parties. This is why I like Library Lock-Ins and after-school reading parties so much. You could also host a simple pizza party at lunch or a make-your-own-sundae or decorate-a-cookie party in the first 15 minutes of class after lunch. If you can get your teachers on board, allowing students to miss a small amount of class is always a popular choice!
SHOULD STUDENTS TRACK PAGES OR MINUTES?
I have seen Book-A-Thons that count the number of pages read instead of minutes. I personally prefer tracking minutes because students can breeze through 200 pages of picture books or graphic novels quickly.
Tracking minutes means reading a long novel will get the same credit as students who read illustrated books. It also enables students to more easily track audiobook reading, which does not include any page numbers.
Book-A-Thon Fundraiser ToolKit
Has your library budget been cut? Need money to buy the things your students want for the library? This kit makes it easy to set up a Book-A-Thon Fundraiser. It includes an editable PowerPoint, Pledge Sheet, Reading Tracking Sheet, and full directions.