Community Reading Night - Renaissance Learning

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Community Reading Night - Renaissance Learning

Community

Reading Night

A How-To Guide

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copyrighted material without authorization from the copyright holder. For information and permission to copy, contact:

Renaissance Learning, Inc.

2911 Peach Street

Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494

(800) 338-4204

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INTRODUCTION

Make Community

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

to: answers@renlearn.com.

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

started:

• 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.

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SUCCESS STORIES

Community Reading

Nights a hit across

the nation!

Parents and children bond in

Mississippi

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

and parents

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

participants.”

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.”

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AN OVERVIEW

What makes a Community Reading

Night successful?

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

very flexible:

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,

paired reading.

• 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!

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Recruiting Helpers

Staffing

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.

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Making it Happen

Funding and

Sponsorship

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

for funds.

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.

Announcement

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

Reading Night.

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.

Have fun

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

reading together.

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

Reading Night.

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SPONSORSHIP LETTER

Sample Sponsorship Solicitation Letter

(Type on school letterhead, personally addressed to business leaders.)

(Name)

(Date)

(Business name)

(Address)

(City) (State) (Zip)

Dear______________________,

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?

Sincerely,

(Your name)

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.

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PARENT LETTER

Sample Parent Letter

(Type on school letterhead, to inform parents about Community Reading Night.)

Date

Dear Parents,

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

necessary expenses.

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.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

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!

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Press Release

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).

# # #

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Community Reading Night Checklist

Check List

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

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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

Renaissance Learning

2911 Peach Street

Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494

Or email us at:

answers@renlearn.com

Renaissance Learning P.O. Box 8036 Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495-8036 (800) 338-4204 www.renlearn.com

Find us on Facebook!

www.facebook.com/arforeducators

AR, Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Reader Enterprise, Renaissance, and Renaissance Learning are trademarks of Renaissance Learning,

Inc., and its subsidiaries, registered, common law, or pending registration in the United States and other countries.

© 2013 Renaissance Learning, Inc. L1876.0911.FP.2.5M

R40069.0413

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