Build a strong community of readers: 15 educator tips on partnering with external stakeholders

Literacy is a community-wide concern. After all, literacy is the bridge leading to every child’s brighter future and every community’s future economic stability. Educators who form solid connections with external stakeholders can create a community-wide reading culture that leads to higher literacy growth.

But how do you extend support for literacy beyond school walls, beyond students’ homes, and into the larger community?

We asked educators in our Renaissance Royals community to share their thoughts and ideas by answering the question: How do you partner with external stakeholders in your community to support literacy growth for your students?

Teachers, librarians, media specialists, and principals responded. Many talk proudly about volunteers who read to students and local nonprofits that donate books. They mention book fairs, story hours, family literacy nights, and students reading to nursing home residents and younger students. Along with these common themes, many educators provided tips in greater detail.

Here are 15 of the comments and suggestions shared.

“Our United Way has a program called ‘Second and 7’ that was created by past Ohio State University football players. It pairs up high school student athletes with our second graders to discuss the importance of reading and teamwork. The students receive books and enter reading contests to increase their reading.”
– Second-grade teacher

“We reach out to parents and local business owners to come in and read to students. The business owners can talk a little about what they do and how they got there. It helps show the students what they need to do for certain careers and shows them that others care about them.”
– Coordinator

“We partner with our local Lions Club for help in purchasing books for our school library and incentive programs for our school. They donate books to our school and, in turn, school staff help the Lions Club by working their monthly bingo nights. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
– Teacher

“Our sixth graders hold a May fundraiser every year (selling keychain strings) then donate the funds to our local county library for the purchase of new books (per our students’ suggestions). Over the last 25 years, students have donated almost $10,000!”
– Teacher

“I support businesses that support our school with spirit nights where they give a portion of the proceeds of each sale to our school. I also use Donors Choose to encourage external stakeholders to help our classrooms.”
– Teacher

“We get community members involved when we have our family engagement nights. Volunteers from the community donate their time or resources and explain their roles in the community to students to show that they are in support of family literacy.”
– Reading intervention teacher

“We have family/community reading events in the library often. We also partner with both groups to come into school to volunteer with the students to help with reading. For example, they listen to students read aloud, practice sight words, and mentor reading tasks.”
– Library media specialist

“We invite external stakeholders to come read to our pre-K–3 students as often as they like. We have a literacy night once a semester for all students.”
– District technology facilitator

“We host PTO nights where students conduct book talks as part of the evening. In the whole group meeting, after business is taken care of, we have three students share a brief three-minute book talk. Then, parents visit their child’s classroom where book talks are set up. Teachers share with the whole group and then parents walk around and listen. Kids love to share their reading and why they selected specific books.”
– Instructional leader

“Our local pharmacy in our reading community has created a reading library. Students may check out library books from the pharmacy. When the students take the book back and tell workers about the book, the students get a prize.”
– Fourth-grade teacher

“We partner up with American Bikers Association to help support literacy growth for our students.”
– Fifth-grade teacher

“Whenever we have an open house, parent-teacher conference, or school-related fundraiser, we reach out to the community for their support. They can be a vendor at an event or offer a 10–15% kickback to the school on all purchases. That money goes toward a growing library.”
– Teacher

“We work closely with our PTA and local businesses to help raise funds for our Renaissance Accelerated Reader® program (and other programs as well). We host book fairs and our parents help volunteer so that we can purchase new books for our library.”
– Librarian

“I invite members of the community from surrounding churches and businesses to come in to tutor and/or mentor students.”
– Principal

“We create bulletin boards for community stakeholders to see when students meet and exceed goals.”
– Teacher

Looking for more ideas on building a community of readers? See a curated collection of resources to help build a community of readers and our recent post on five different ways to get started in your school or district.

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