Nothing makes teachers and librarians happier than to get their students excited about books. Last week, we got to learn how to put on an incredible book festival with Reba Gordan and Georgia Parker. But how do we make those dreams become a reality. Jamie Ayres, author and high school English teacher at Cape Coral High, has answers for you. She put on her own book festival and not only did she get 12 authors to come to her school, she raised $6000 to purchase books for her students. Today she’s here to give you tips on how to put the funds to your dreams.
Tell us about the Cape Coral Festival and the inspiration behind it.
Back in 2014, I did my first school visit as an author after my first book, 18 Things, was published. A month later, I received all sorts of letters from students who said my book was the first they’d read for fun and wanting to know what kind of books I’d recommend. I realized reluctant readers might pick up a book if they had the chance to make a personal connection with the author. The next school year I planned author visits at my school and then expanded it to a festival once more resources became available.
This year we hosted events each class period in our auditorium. Author Teshelle Combs was our opening keynote speaker, then we hosted two different panels of five authors with each panel lasting 30 minutes, and then Lynne Matson was our closing keynote. At noon, all the authors and students moved to the football field for the outdoor festival. Students participated in a scavenger hunt which includes interacting with the authors and other games/activities. The more points the students earned through their scavenger hunt, the more entries they received for prizes such as Starbucks gift cards. We had 40 gift cards for prizes!
You raised $6000 in books to give out to students and brought in 12 authors. That’s incredible! How did you make this possible?
We received $5,000 in grants from The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, a non-profit charitable education foundation which enhances and enriches the quality of public education in Lee County for students and educators through programs, resources and experiences made possible through corporate, individual and educational partnerships. We also received a $1,500 grant from Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral to purchase books by these authors. This is our third year hosting the festival and every year the grants are harder to attain because educational grant funds continue to be cut and competition has increased as the word gets out. In the past, we’ve also received grants through Dollar General, Target, Florida’s Suncoast Credit Union, and our local Chamber of Commerce. All twelve authors donate their time for the day; they are as excited as the students to talk about the power of books! And I think the fact that they’re guaranteed sales through our grants helps our cause too!
When writing grants, do you have any advice for teachers and media specialists?
Do your research! You could also reach out to your Grants department at your school district to see what’s available locally. It’s always easier to get local grants versus the big national grants because there’s less competition for those funds. Of course, the grants are also smaller. Some people may think the paperwork isn’t worth the time for just a $100 grant, but every little bit adds up! Each grant is unique with their paperwork, so unfortunately there’s no template to start with.
One thing I plan on doing for next year’s festival is writing a grant on DonorsChoose.org, which supports classrooms all over the US. I’ve already utilized that site twice to fund my Classroom Small Group Book Clubs and both were funded successfully. My one word of advice is to start early! I just wrapped our festival on March 14th, but my work isn’t over. Now I’m wrapping up my reports from that festival and applying for grants for next year’s event. Sometimes it takes up to six months to hear if you received a grant.
About Jamie Ayres
Jamie Ayres writes young adult coming of age stories by night and teaches young adults as a high school English teacher by day. When not at home on her laptop or at school, she can often be found at a local book store grabbing random children and reading to them. So far, she has not been arrested for this. Originally from Michigan, she now resides in Florida with her prince charming and two daughters. She loves lazy pajama days, the first page of a good book, stupid funny movies, and sharing stories with fantastic people like you. Her books include the three novels in her trilogy, 18 Things, 18 Truths, and 18 Thoughts. Visit her online via Twitter or Facebook.
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