Over the past few weeks the reading committee has been busy with our first reading fundraiser, a program sponsored by Usborne called “Reach for the Stars.” Students were introduced to the program during an assembly where they received reading packets. The goal set out before them was simple: to read 300 minutes in two weeks and ask their friends and neighbors for pledges to support their reading. It was a lot like any other fundraiser, except instead of selling, say, cookies, the kids sold reading.
All of the money raised went back to the school. Students used half of the money they collected to buy books for themselves, and then handed over the other half so their teachers could buy classroom books. They could purchase books out of the Usborne catalog.
I have to go on a tangent to say how much I love Usborne books, especially their non-fiction books. I love how their encyclopedias are packed with information and vivid pictures that make them really fun to look at. I can also appreciate their mythology collection, since part of the Common Core State Standards for elementary includes reading mythology (and yet outside of Usborne and Rick Riordan, appropriate mythology books can be so hard to find). I have a collection of Usborne books on my library tables, and even my most restless students love to sit and page through them during check out time.
To garner excitement, our representative provided all classrooms and the library with sample books, so I decided to try out a new activity. I put piles of 4 or 5 sample books on each table. Instead of having storytime on the rug, I had the students sit down at the tables. I told them to choose one book from the pile, and I timed them while they read in silence for 2 minutes. When the timer went off, they wrote down their respective titles on a piece of paper with a plus or minus sign, depending on whether or not they wanted to read more. Then they switch books and we started the process over. It turned out to be a great way to “try out” different books and practice good book-looking techniques. You can actually read quite a bit in a couple minutes–enough, it turns out, to understand what the story is going to be about.
FInally, I want to thank Friends for Berrien Springs, who donated $300 to our fundraiser! We were able to divide the money up between 16 teachers, giving them nearly $19 to spend on their classroom libraries. We’re all very grateful that we have such a fantastic group in our community that wants to support our students’ reading habits.