A How-To Guide
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Renaissance Learning, Inc.
2911 Peach Street
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494
Reading Night a reality in
your area—a little effort
can yield great rewards.
All learning starts with a student’s ability to read.
However, many educators today struggle with
motivating children to read. If the family doesn’t
support them in this area, the job can be almost
impossible. One very effective way to involve
family members and other parents or responsible
adults in this important process is to invite them
to a Community Reading Night.
Community Reading Nights are the perfect
opportunity to have your students bring a parent,
guardian, or other important adult person to
school for a fun and sociable experience. It’s
flexible and non-threatening—parents who
typically avoid the school and parent-teacher
conferences should feel at ease because school
“issues” are not discussed. The only rule is
that kids must be accompanied by a parent,
guardian, or other adult. Kids and parents
come when they can, and stay for as little or as
much time as they want. Of course, the goal
is to have them come weekly, and that’s where
your creative ideas can shine. There are some
suggestions in this Guide, and we hope you’ll
share your ideas with us so others can benefit
from your experiences. Simply email your ideas
Schools throughout the U.S. have begun devoting
a family night to reading. Here’s your chance to
foster a reading environment. In many families,
leisure time is at a premium, and the importance
of reading often gets lost in the shuffle.
This Guide has everything you need
to get your Community Reading Night
• Suggestions of staffing
• Tips of funding and sponsorships
• Suggestions of announcements
• Sample letters for parents, sponsorships,
and media outlets
Community Reading Night doesn’t require
Accelerated Reader Enterprise (AR) or
Renaissance professional development,
though AR does make it more effective and fun.
Renaissance Learning encourages Community
Reading Night because we support educators in
building communities of readers.
Providing families with the chance to attend a
regular reading event is a very worthwhile and
manageable project. Best of all, it doesn’t take a
lot of work! This Guide is designed to streamline
the process for you.
Nights a hit across
Parents and children bond in
The library at Bay Springs Elementary School
in West Jasper, Mississippi, has become a
place for parents and children to share special
time reading together—at Community Reading
Night. Parents get a tour of the library and are
encouraged to select a title, then take turns
reading out loud to each other. “Attendance has
improved steadily since we first started,” said
fourth-grade teacher Carol Lamb. “Everyone
we’ve talked to has really enjoyed the events.
Students enjoy Community Reading Night
because it gives them special one-on-one
time with their parents.” An added benefit of
the program for Lamb and other Bay Springs
teachers is the opportunity to get to know her
students’ parents. “Community Reading Night
gives me more opportunities to have positive
interactions with parents. I think it’s really helped
to build rapport between parents and teachers.”
Reading Night a treat for students
At Boaz Elementary School in Boaz, Alabama,
students and parents mix reading and eating
to great results. “We have a wonderful turnout
for our reading night. We offer a hot dog supply
for about a dollar per person. Families come
read, quiz, and have supper together,” said
Cindy Griffith, teacher. “We have about 600
students in our school and we had more than 700
Students enjoy Community
Reading Night because it
gives them special one-on-one
time with their parents.
Students enjoy Community Reading Night. It gives
them special one-on-one time with their parents.
“Famous” celebs bring in the crowds
Community leaders are a draw at Codington
Elementary School in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“For our Community Reading Night we invited
‘famous’ community leaders to read books. We
had seven stations for these readers and they
read for three 20-minute periods and then
changed readers for the second hour.” Said
La Donna Hauser, curriculum coordinator,
“This allowed our students to see people in our
community as readers.”
Getting the whole school involved
At Blackman Elementary School in Murfreesboro,
Tennessee, they have two teachers from each
grade level help with Community Reading Night.
Teachers are assigned an area (library, computer
lab, cafeteria, lobby, etc.) to assist students and
parents. “Our principal provides refreshments
and door prizes for students. We also have
class participation contests,” said Jackie Tucker,
teacher. “Community Reading Night is always a
success and lots of fun for the kids.”
What makes a Community Reading
Community Reading Night should not be a lot
of work for you or your staff. It’s little more than
opening the doors of the school one night a
week and encouraging families to drop in to
have a good time and spend some quality time
with their sons and daughters—your students.
The structure of the evening is
The key to the program is that each student
who comes must be accompanied by a parent,
guardian, or other older, responsible adult.
• Participants should be free to drop in for a
few minutes, or stay as long as they’d like.
An open, inviting atmosphere is essential.
• Encourage pairs to select books and read
together. Adult and child can read the same
or different books. They may elect to quietly
discuss their reading. Struggling readers
may benefit from read-aloud practice,
• Weekly attendance is best. Be creative
about ways to increase participation
and attendance of all students. A weekly
drawing is one good technique.
• As Community Reading Night catches on,
you might consider occasional events such
as having your best storyteller read aloud
a short story in the middle of the evening.
Don’t overlook the fact that all readers
benefit from TWI time (that is, reading To,
reading With, and reading Independently).
In the end...
Community Reading Night should be an event
the entire school becomes familiar with and can
be proud of. Be careful that it doesn’t become
a time-consuming production. Keep it simple—
and flexible; the evening is a social event. Above
all, HAVE FUN with it!
Community Reading Night should not add to your
workload. Plan on having a paid aide available to
monitor the facility and use of resources. Great sources
include college-age student teachers, teaching aides,
high school students, parents, and grandparents.
You may also want to engage the talents of some
student leaders who are particularly excited about
reading and are familiar with running Accelerated
Reader. Explain that you’ll need one or two students
each week to pitch in on Community Reading Night to
help with setup, finding books, taking Reading Practice
Quizzes, printing reports, etc. Students are great
helpers, especially if volunteering is seen as a privilege.
When properly trained, they generally follow directions,
they’ll work virtually for free, and they recognize they
are getting great experience. Be sure to get parental
permission for these students to help.
Making it Happen
You should talk with the principal or
administration about your plans, but you can
anticipate one of their first questions: What’s
this project going to cost? Again, it may be
nothing more than opening the school for a few
hours. If you feel the program would benefit, you
might consider a banner, cookies, bookmarks,
and so forth.
Take a few moments to make some projections
for things such as staffing, refreshments, banner,
and other extras. Your budget for a weekly event
might look like this:
• One aide x 2 ½ hours = $20 per session
• Cookies, pretzels, etc. = $5 per session
• Banner (one-time cost) = $50
• 30 weeks x $25 per session = $750, plus $50
banner = $800 per year
If you’ve done a good job of selling the program
to the principal, he or she might just find the
budget for you, taking it out of general operating
expenses, for example. Or, he or she might submit
it to your parent-teacher organization with a strong
recommendation for implementation and a request
But if funds are tight, there’s another alternative:
sponsorship. It’s relatively easy to go outside
the school to find a benefactor to sponsor your
Community Reading Night. In exchange for the
goodwill and advertising exposure that your
program offers, area business owners should be
quite willing to spend a few hundred dollars over
the school year to support your program. Benefits
to them are having the business name seen many
times by members of the community, general
goodwill, positive publicity, and an alliance with
two important issues: literacy and the family.
businesses’ names will appear in publicity letters,
on promotional flyers throughout the community,
and on a sign posted for all to see during
Community Reading Nights.
A model of a personalized letter of appeal is on
page 8. It’s a good idea to follow up with a phone
call within a few days of sending your letters.
Once the personnel and financial requirements are
fulfilled, it’s time to take the wraps off! Page 9 has
a short letter that can be adapted for your program
to notify parents and families of Community
Additionally, you’ll want to create some simple
flyers to post around the school, reminding
students of the event. Be sure to include your
sponsor’s name in a prominent spot.
This is also a good time to draft a press release to
send to local media (see page 10 for a sample).
Be sure to cite the generosity of administrators
and your benefactors. Plan to follow up the press
releases with a phone call to the editors, reminding
them of the event and suggesting it might make a
good photo opportunity.
Remember, the goal of Community Reading Night
is to bring families together to read and have a
good time! With a little effort and planning you
can make Community Reading Night a reality in
your community—the reward will be great when
you see the smiling faces of parents and children
Send letters to two or three dozen prominent
area businesses. Compile the list yourself, or ask
prominent community leaders such as members
of your school board to lend their help. Be sure
to mention to the business people that their
It’s relatively easy to go outside
the school to find a benefactor
to sponsor your Community
Sample Sponsorship Solicitation Letter
(Type on school letterhead, personally addressed to business leaders.)
(City) (State) (Zip)
I’m writing to ask for your help. As a prominent business person in our community, you regularly
demonstrate your support for the students of (school name). Given your commitment to our programs,
I’d like to give you a sneak preview of our latest project designed to get kids excited about reading.
It’s a simple but exciting idea called Community Reading Night. Every (Wednesday) night during
the school year, from (6:30 to 8:30), we’ll open the school library to students and their families. All are
welcome to come and select books, read to one another, or read alone. This is an opportunity for parents
to spend quality time with their children, share interests, discuss books, and take some time together out
of their busy work week. The Community Reading Night program has proven successful in other schools
throughout the nation, and I’m sure it will be an important addition to our community.
Would you please consider sponsoring Community Reading Night? Our expenses will be minimal—
we’ll need to compensate an aide for supervising the library and computers for two-and-a-half hours each
week. It would also be nice to provide light snacks. In return for your support, the (business) name would
appear on a Community Reading Night banner, displayed throughout the year. It would also appear on
flyers distributed in the community. We will issue a press release to the local media regarding Community
Reading Night, giving prominent mention to you, one of our benefactors. All told, this promotional
opportunity would offer a year-long visible presence for less than the cost of most advertising.
If you’re committed to making a difference in the community, would you please call me at (phone #) to
discuss sponsoring Community Reading Night?
P.S. Please help us make a difference in the lives of our community’s children—call me at (phone #)
and we can discuss how you can help to support Community Reading Night.
Sample Parent Letter
(Type on school letterhead, to inform parents about Community Reading Night.)
We’re kicking off a new after-hours program called Community Reading Night and we’d love for you
and your kids to attend. One night a week we’ll be opening the school up for you and your kids to come
in, read together, and discuss what you’re reading. Attendance is not required, but having a good time is!
Community Reading Night is the perfect opportunity to have fun while investing some quality time in
your children, and in their education here at (school name). Reading with your kids can create a special
bond as you discuss what you’ve read and engage in meaningful conversation—it will bring you to new
levels of closeness.
We’ll be holding Community Reading Night every (Wednesday) night from (6:30 to 8:30) in the school
library, starting (proposed start date). We know how hectic schedules can get, so attend when you can,
and feel free to come and go as your schedule permits. A teacher’s aide and students will be on hand
to help you find books and, if you’d like, take computerized quizzes with Accelerated Reader reading
management software—the “AR” your kids have been talking about.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank (list principal, librarian, or other faculty member) for their
support, and acknowledge (benefactor) for sponsoring Community Reading Night by helping fulfill
When you demonstrate that reading is an important activity in your life, it goes a long way to instilling
a lifelong love of reading in your child. Please plan to drop in on Community Reading Night! I look
forward to seeing you.
P.S. Children must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Attendance by a child with an adult
qualifies him or her to earn a chance in our weekly drawing to be the first in line at lunch for a week
(or whatever incentive you’d like to offer). We’ll also have coupons from (business) for adults (if you
have them). See you there!
Sample Press Release
Submit the following press release to your local news media to let them know about your Community
Reading Night. Just retype on school letterhead, customize as you see fit, and send it off to your local
newspaper, or TV and radio stations. Include some photos of children reading or posing with stacks of
books. The publicity you’ll receive will generate community support for your Community Reading Night!
(School name) Invites Families to Read Together
Every (state what night you hold your Community Reading Night get-together) evening, students and
their families gather at the (name of your school) library to share some special reading time. Parents,
grandparents, and siblings gather informally to select books, talk about what they’ve read and what they
recommend, and prove their understanding with computerized reading practice quizzes. The key is that
families have fun and spend quality time together in an activity that promotes good reading habits.
“Community Reading Nights like this one are catching on throughout the country,” said (your name),
(title) at (name of your school), who oversees reading night activities from (time; e.g., 6:30 to 8:30 on
Wednesdays). “In our hurry-up society, it’s important that busy parents and their busy children take time
for an activity that is fun and promotes togetherness. Practicing reading is a natural.”
Aside from the fellowship, one exciting aspect of Community Reading Night is the use of the school’s
reading management software, Accelerated Reader. During the school day, students at (your school) use
the program to prove their comprehension of books read. Now, other family members are getting in
on the fun. “It’s become common for students and parents to have a little friendly competition with
Accelerated Reader,” (your name) said.
(At this point, you may want to credit those people who helped you plan Community Reading Night,
including a sponsor, if any—see next paragraph for a sample write-up. You can also share any special
things your school does with the night, Accelerated Reader, or other reading programs.)
(Your name) proposed the Community Reading Night to school administrator (name of administrator),
who was quick to see the advantages of the program. (Your name) also approached (business name)
owner, (owner’s name), to help meet some of the financial requirements of staging Community Reading
Night. “Someone has to meet expenses for opening the school, keeping the lights on, and helping with
refreshments,” (your name) said, “and we asked (business owner’s name) to sponsor our activity. Their
support has been great.”
For more information about Community Reading Night, contact the school office or
(your name) at (school name), (phone number).
# # #
Community Reading Night Checklist
As you prepare to hold your first Community Reading Night, use the checklist below to make sure you
have completed the action items needed to assure the success of your event. In the blank lines, fill in
details of your action items needed and completed as they occur, so you won’t repeat steps or forget
what you have already done.
o Event Staffing
o Sponsorship Letter
o Parent Letter
o Press Release
About Renaissance Learning, Inc.
Renaissance Learning is a leading provider of technology-based school improvement and student
assessment programs for K12 schools. Renaissance Learning’s tools provide daily formative
assessment and periodic progress-monitoring technology to enhance core curriculum, support
differentiated instruction, and personalize practice in reading, writing and math. Renaissance
Learning products help educators make the practice component of their existing curriculum
more effective by providing tools to personalize practice and easily manage the daily activities
for students of all levels. As a result, teachers using Renaissance Learning products accelerate
learning, get more satisfaction from teaching, and help students achieve higher test scores on state
and national tests.
Share your ideas with us!
Involving Parents and Community Members
2911 Peach Street
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494
Or email us at:
Renaissance Learning P.O. Box 8036 Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495-8036 (800) 338-4204 www.renlearn.com
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