Shared Success: A Penny Drive for Books

By Linda Jones, Parent Volunteer at Knox Elementary School in Chandler, AZ

Linda Jones After recently organizing her 15th Scholastic Book Fair, parent volunteer Linda Jones shares the fun, easy way she helped get more books into the hands of kids, while increasing her Fair profit – all for pennies on the dollar!

I wanted to participate in the One for Books program to collect money to help our students buy books and improve the school’s library. Scholastic matches the dollars we raise, so that was an extra incentive for me. I knew we would be helping in our own community and someplace else in the country.

For my fall Book Fair, I tried an idea I had heard about from another chairperson. Everyone has pennies lying around, so I decided to organize a penny drive competition among our classes.

I offered a pizza party and free books to the upper and lower grade classes that collected the most pennies. After all, kids will do almost anything for pizza!

To publicize the contest, I sent notes home to parents letting them know we were collecting pennies for a good cause and explaining how they could help.

I set the goal at 2,000 pennies per class. Each class collected their pennies in a container that was marked with goal lines so they could watch the pennies rise and track their progress.

I gave each classroom a chart to display in the hallway, so everyone could see who was in the lead. This really drove the competition.

And I pointed out the fact that copper is Arizona's state metal.

After the first week, several classes had already passed the 2,000-penny mark. Our students were determined to have that pizza party!

The winning class raised more than $50. And all together, we collected more than $1,300!

The key to the success of our Book Fairs is publicity, and having the Penny Drive, or something that catches kids’ eyes, helps get the word out early and builds anticipation.

Next time, though, I will see to it that we collect the pennies more often, instead of waiting until the last day of the drive to pick them up. Our PTO officer Valerie Guillen helped me gather the pennies from each classroom using wagons, and it took us six hours using counting machines at the bank to change the pennies into bills.

I never dreamed we would bring in so much money. I was just amazed. We gave $75 to seven new teachers to start their classroom libraries, and the rest we used for our library.
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