Sometimes we forget just how much Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) do for our children. PTAs seem to be mostly associated with fundraising—and it’s true they do an amazing job—but there’s so much more they do, from organizing events for parents and students to helping supervise extracurricular activities for the children.
But there’s one thing PTAs can do that will have a massive and direct impact on your children: supporting reading programs and sponsoring literacy events to inspire and foster a love of reading in all children.
There’s a lot to be won for PTAs by getting actively involved in a reading program. Studies show that when parents get involved and work well with schools, kids perform better in school and more often graduate and move on to higher education.
Reading out of pleasure is a lifelong habit that can set them on the journey to success, learning, and personal growth, wherever that journey takes them.
Never underestimate the power of the PTA in that journey. Here are great ideas for parent groups to support, develop, and nurture children’s literacy skills.
1. Organize book-themed camping evening
Get parents, kids, teachers, and school staff together for a fun and exciting outdoor or indoor book reading evening.
Create ‘stations’ in tents or manned by parents or staff, either in the school outdoor grounds or by transforming a gym or library, and provide hot chocolate and treats for the children. Each station reads out parts of the book (the best bits, and fills in the rest of the plot) or reads from entirely different books.
Make it yours and let your creativity run wild. Read from Treasure Island, for example, and have the children decode messages and challenges and win rewards. Or create a winter-themed evening with several books set in winter or Alaska! From Twelfth Night to A Secret Garden and from Robinson Crusoe to Harry Potter, there are hundreds of books that would make for great book-themed events to make reading fun.
Come in your pajamas (and bring your sleeping bags)!
2. Create a book-bingo activity
Make way in your cafeteria for a fun night of book bingo!
Either create bingo cards that feature words from a read-out-loud story, or create challenges, like “Read 5 pages of your summer reading book” or “Read to your favorite plush toy”. Make the prizes fun and age-appropriate, and think of offering no-cost rewards like bringing their favorite toy to school or a lunch date with their favorite teacher.
Find printable book bingo cards on Pinterest, or create your own reading challenges.
3. Invite an author to come read at your school
Inviting an author or book illustrator (or even book publisher or editor) to your school can be an exciting event for everyone.
PTAs can do the groundwork by contacting the author and perhaps spreading the cost with other schools in the area. You can get the children involved in choosing the author, writing the invitation, and planning out the day. The author can read parts of the book, talk about their favorite character or the writing process, and even set up small-group writing workshops.
Libraries and bookstores sometimes hold author reading events, and you may be able to work something out with them and bring small groups. Check author websites, publisher sites, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
4. Start a 1 Million Minutes reading challenge
Kids are really proud when they complete a reading challenge. Organize a school-wide reading challenge and get everyone to read 1 million minutes collectively. Set a time limit depending on the age and reading level, for example one semester, one season, or a full year.
Offer a tantalizing prize, something that the kids will really want and that will be fun for everyone involved – you can even let them choose it themselves. Some ideas: a fun fair at the end of the year, a one-day pass to skip your least favorite class, a special outing, or an end-of-challenge disco night (in the library!).
Schedule school time for children to read, and hold regular events to keep kids engaged, like read-ins and author days. Keep it creative: invite members of the community to act as reading buddies, or organize a pet-reading day where children can ‘share’ a pet and take turns reading to them.
5. Organize a book fair
The new bake sale! Get members of the PTA to come together to organize a book fair, and let the children help plan and participate in the fair. Choose a theme and schedule entertainment to help increase traffic, and make it a fun event. For lots of children, book fairs are an introduction to book ownership and a wonderful way to discover breakthrough books and recent releases. Get ideas to organize an annual book fair on Scholastic Book Fairs’s website.
6. Help kids organize a book club
Book clubs are a great way to dive in deeper with readers into discussions of the books they love with pears. It’s also a great way for children to socialize around an activity they like and meet kids from different classes and grades.
You can set up a book club where all kids read the same book or one where the kids read books from the same author or around a specific theme and discuss the links between them. Maybe the school can put some time aside during school time for the book club members to meet, or they can meet after school. Let the kids choose the books they want, which makes it more pleasurable and inviting for them.
7. Create a “Little Free Bookshop”
You can set up a ‘little free bookshop’ somewhere in the school (or on the school grounds), where children can take a book and leave a book. The goal is to get kids to pick up the books they love and share their favorites with others.
The PTA can invest in a few great books to start them off, and to keep the bookshop interesting. (Some kids will ‘forget’ to leave a book or leave one, so you can reach out to families and teachers to help replenish the Little Free Bookstore periodically).
8. Organize book-inspired STEAM activities
Books are a fascinating way for children to get involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths) activities.
Wonder how Harry Potter’s spells work? Hint: It’s chemistry, not magic, says the Institution of Chemical Engineers!
Get the PTA to fundraise for STEAM kits or get together to brainstorm ideas with teachers of how to incorporate these great activities for kids.
Find more ideas to connect STEAM activities with your kids’ favourite books.
9. Apply for grants for your school
Books can be expensive, and it’s not always possible for families to splurge on huge sums to donate to the school. But reading and literacy is important for us as a society, and there are several foundations and national organizations that offer grants for literacy.
Get a few members of the PTA to create a committee to find and apply to relevant grants. Check out this website for ideas on where to start looking for grants.
10. Offer Reading Rewards for your school
Getting kids inspired to read is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do for their education. Reading Rewards is a reading incentive program used worldwide by thousands of kids, parents and teachers that helps create that lifelong love of reading.
Reading Rewards is a program for both children and teachers.
Reading Rewards is a modern way for kids to log their reading (through an app or online), earn rewards, connect to a network of school friends and teachers, and discuss and enjoy books together.
Parents and teachers can see what the kids are reading, create incentives, set up reading challenge, check in on reading logs. There are one-on-one reading lessons to help reluctant readers improve their literacy and more advanced programs for avid readers.
PTAs can encourage the school to sign up to Reading Rewards or invest themselves in an annual subscription for Reading Rewards. A reading program can help children develop strong literacy skills, discovery whole new worlds, and inspire a love of reading, and your PTA can be instrumental in helping kids on this journey.