Give Me Five #9

Give Me Five #9

By Tommy and Linda Johns


This is another article in a series that has a simple premise.  The articles will take you about five minutes to read (that’s when you give US five!) and will deal with a problem or concept pertaining to our work encouraging kids to read.  Each article will also include a list of five ideas, reasons, tools, steps or other helpful items (that’s when we give YOU five!) related to the topic of the article.  While none of these articles will claim to be the last word on any topic, we promise to make each one fun, well researched and way beyond the obvious. (If you have missed the first articles, you can view them at,  or e-mail us at and we’ll send you an MS WordTM file of the articles.)  Here is Give Me Five


#9 – “I’d Like to, But I Can’t Afford it Right Now!”



I know.  Another article about money and these precarious economic times.  Is this one about how to save it, invest it, hold onto it, make more of it, or refinance debt?  Actually, it’s about how to get what your media center and students need when you don’t have the money in the budget.  It is likely that you have seen something in the past 30 days you would like to offer your students or teachers, but you just can’t seem to find the money to get it.  It might be a piece of equipment, new World BooksTM, prizes for a reading emphasis, or a great presenter for a reading program that would inspire and encourage kids to read.  But if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money, right?  Maybe.  There are ways to fund these important parts of your program, even when your funds are not there.



1.  School Funding – The most obvious choice is using budgeted school funds.  Use library or reading budget funds.  Book Fair money can often be used for unbudgeted items.  Sit down with your principal and share your vision for what you want.  Your passion is often contagious, and will help motivate the principal to find funding.  Talk to the principal about the value of reading programs/equipment/supplies as they relate to increased test scores.  (I have had more than one person tell me that when principals are asked to list their top five criteria for anything the school does, the top four are “It must raise test scores.”)  Principals often have discretionary funds available to use for projects that they see as being of value. If you are new to your school or system, ask about other, less obvious money that may be available to you of which you were unaware.  Ask the PTA/PTO for funds.  Parent/teacher groups love to sponsor events that the entire school can enjoy and benefit from.


2.  Community Funding – Your school’s Partners in Education will often get very excited about bringing in a speaker, buying a visible piece of equipment, or helping fund a reading emphasis like a family reading night. Civic organizations like the Rotary Club can be a source of partial or total funding if the program promotes reading and they get some deserved recognition.  Tommy was part of a series at a library last summer where five speakers were brought in, each paid for by a different service organization (Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimist, etc.).  Be sure and recognize their contribution as publicly and as often as you can, and invite members of the group to your school to see the program or for the unveiling of the equipment.  Take pictures and issue press releases when an organization helps fund a project.  This will help insure continued support and may motivate other groups to help as well.  ALWAYS get approval from your principal and Partners in Education coordinator before approaching any business or organization in the community.


3.  Cooperative or Collaborative Funding – If you have some money, but an item or event you need is out of your price range, there are ways to reduce the expense of getting what you need.  If you are looking to bring in an author/presenter, get another school to join the “tour,” thereby splitting expenses.  Find a presenter who performs reading shows that incorporate science, history, geography, writing, or character education and get funding through another budget item in the school.  Likewise, if a series of books or a piece of equipment will be especially helpful to the fifth grade or the Math department, ask them to help pay for it.  Collaboration is about more than just sharing ideas.  And as the media specialist, you are in a position to know about resources of which most teachers are unaware.  It’s a win/win situation.


Collaborate with other media specialists in your district to find out what they may have as a surplus that you could use.  If you need televisions and find out that the high school your school feeds into has just equipped their classrooms with LCD projectors, you may be able to get several serviceable TV’s transferred to your school.  Ask the district office what they have in storage that you might be able to get.  Many times one department has needs and another, the means to meet that need, but nobody asks.


4.  Grants and Public Funding – If your school is eligible and you are willing to fill out the paperwork and jump through a few hoops, you may be able to get funding for incentives, books/resources, equipment or programs involving promotion of reading, science, math or drug awareness from grants or other public funds like Title I, Red Ribbon, corporations, professional associations and foundations.  A quick Google search for Reading Grants will reveal a number of companies that care about encouraging kids to read and offer funding for events and continued support if your school meets their criteria.  Check into an Eisenhower Grant for science or math resources.


5.  Free Stuff – There is a lot of free stuff out there.  Box tops, prize drawings, and sales promotions (Buy this set of books, get a free DVD player!) are ways to get some of the things you need without any outlay of funds.  There are ways to get a presenter to visit your school at no cost.  (Before you bring in a free speaker, ALWAYS get references!  A free program can be very costly to your credibility if it is done poorly.)  Some authors come to schools at no cost, but you must do book sales using their system.  Be on the lookout (and get your friends and colleagues to do the same) for giveaways that could be used as prizes for reading incentives, door prizes or gift baskets.  There is free stuff to be had.  You just have to make sure it meets your needs.  Speaking of free stuff, the first elementary or middle school media specialist to e-mail Tommy will get a free half day of reading assembly programs (up to 2 assemblies) to be redeemed in the spring semester of this school year (not including Children’s Book Week).


Media specialists are among the most resourceful people we have met.  We hope the ideas shared in this article have added to your resource file.


This blog is the beginning of a booklet we are working on to distribute to Media Specialists and Public Librarians about ways to fund programs and reading emphases when there is little or no funding available.  If you have ideas on the topic of creative funding or if you are interested in receiving a .pdf copy of the booklet when it is finished, e-mail us at, and you will get your copy when we get it completed.


Tommy has been helping media specialists find ways to pay for his programs that encourage kids to read for almost three decades as a school show presenter and educational entertainment specialist.  Find out more at 


Linda, a first year library media specialist in Cobb County, has already used some of these ideas to find ways to get funding for the stuff her media center needs.


We welcome your comments on this column and ideas for future “Give Me Five!” articles.  You can contact us at or  




Posted on November 20, 2008, in Ideas, Reading and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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