Where to Invest Your School Literacy Budget (And Where Not To)

Reading is a right, not a privilege.

student literacy

Improving student literacy levels is a challenge for every school we know.  You’re pushing to make reading and writing happen across the content areas. You’re worrying about student test scores. Marketers and publishers are offering easy solutions, but the truth is there is no easy solution. However, there are some steps that are more beneficial than others.

Do you have a say in your school literacy budget? Here are two things that are not worth your money, and two things that are.

School literacy budget don’ts

Digital Testing Programs

High-stakes testing is already stressing your teachers out. Don’t put money towards other computer-based reading programs. These are often multiple choice quizzes that students approach like a game, and they promote fake reading.

Scripted Reading Curricula

You want all teachers to provide a quality literacy education, which may lead you to think that standardizing resources will standardize results. This may be true, but the results won’t be pretty. Don’t waste your money on a scripted literacy curriculum. It sends one message to teachers: We don’t trust you. When teachers can’t make instructional decisions, they feel disempowered and unmotivated. Hire the teachers who will make the right decisions for student literacy.

School literacy budget do’s


These fall into three categories: school, classroom, and professional. To create a culture of readers, administrators can support the school library.


The school library is a hub of research and ideas. Give school librarians the funds they need to create a modern vision for their space. To encourage daily reading, teachers need robust classroom libraries, which is true for all subject areas. Imagine a science classroom filled with sci-fi novels and engaging narrative nonfiction books. Imagine a math class filled with personal finance books for youngsters. Furthermore, professional libraries show the staff that professional learning is an ongoing process. Improving one’s practice starts with professional reading, so provide relevant books on best practices for literacy instruction. Bonus points if you read the titles and discuss them with your teachers.


Want staff to teach students with enthusiasm? Invest in their improvement. Investing in the professional development of your literacy staff members is priceless. Professional organizations, like NCTE and CEL offer opportunities for educator growth. Many teachers can’t afford to attend the annual conventions of these groups on their own, so ask staff to nominate a colleague to attend. Ensure it is someone who makes the most of professional development opportunities and will turnkey their learning into a department PD. If you can afford to send more than one teacher, do it.

National convention attendance is expensive, but there are other ways to encourage professional learning and improve student literacy. Pay for substitute teachers for a day for several literacy teachers, so they can spend the day discussing the literacies that students need across subjects/grade levels.

Money can’t make kids read better. But you can push the right levers to create an environment where literacy thrives. Fill your school with good books. Invest in good teachers. Play for the long-term. Our job is not to create readers for tomorrow, it’s to create readers for life.

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