I LOVE speaking at schools and leading writing workshops. By now, I’ve visited enough campuses to see a wide disparity in demographics. I’ve been to inner city elementary schools with metal detectors and bars on the windows, and I’ve been to schools with sparkling courtyard gardens and laptops for every child. Whether a school is wealthy or economically-disadvantaged, everyone agrees that kids deserve the best possible education, which begins with the foundation of literacy. If you’re reading this, you already know that reading is the foundation for education and citizenship, and it is a gateway to empathic connections. You know that writing is not only an art, and a way to share ideas and use imagination, but a critical communication tool. As the printed word increasingly competes with large and small screens, the intrinsic and pragmatic value of an author visit increases exponentially. Meeting a “real live” author allows students to peek behind the wizard’s curtain—to humanize the process of story creation (fiction and nonfiction), and to glimpse at the creative potential of curiosity. Many authors, like me, incorporate concrete curriculum connections to support classroom instruction.
But how do you pay for an author visit when budgets at the school, PTA, and district level are squeezed? Though by no means an exhaustive list, below are some options you may not have considered:
Find a creative way to raise the money. Get the students involved so that they feel invested.
Coin campaigns (Think of the bonus math connection!)
Corporate Event Sponsors:
You know the drill.
Grants (Where a Texas organization is mentioned, insert your own equivalent):
* Ask your colleagues which grants they have had success with.
* Check your state and local arts commissions, such as the Texas Commission on the Arts and organizations within specific communities like Impact Austin.
* Search your state’s library association. For example, The Texas Library Association sponsors grants for public libraries & disaster relief.
* Search Grant Watch by state (ie: Texas Grant Watch), and other cooperative sites that help educators find grants, like GetEdFunding and Grants for Teachers, and ProLiteracy, Scholastic, Junior Library Guild, etc. There are many more out there!
* Look at regional writing organizations.
* The Writer’s League of Texas’ Project Wise facilitates one-hour author visits at no cost to participating Austin-area schools, and is funded by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division.
* SCBWI’s Amber Brown Grant, and the Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Grant by ALSC and ALA, funded by Simon and Schuster.
* The Texas Book Festival has grants available through their Reading Rock Stars Program (and they provide a book for each child)
* The remarkable nonprofit organization First Book (They also provide a book for each child.)
* Check corporate philanthropy options like Dell Computers, HEB, Target, Wells Fargo, Exxon/Mobil, Dollar General, Barnes & Noble, etc.
* Be aware that some large corporations reward employee volunteers by making a donation in the employee’s name. One of my school visits was paid for by a company on behalf of an employee volunteer.
*If, after all your efforts, you’re still short on budget, ask your preferred author if they will discount their honorarium. Every author I know will gladly do this, as long as the request is reasonable.
Do you need free books for your classroom or library? Check out the options listed by the National Education Association.
Remember, there’s free money out there to help you help your students. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.
STAY TUNED for my updated post about how much money authors really earn.