How to Run a Read-a-Thon

A DIY readathon is a whole of school fundraiser that not only has the potential to raise lots of money, but can be used to support the literacy curriculum. The benefits of running a read-a-thon are that it is perfect for the winter months since it can be held indoors, and is also an ideal fundraiser for remote or rural schools, as fundraising can be done online.

What is a read-a-thon?

The basic premise of a read-a-thon is that children are sponsored to read as many books as possible within a determined time. Before the challenge starts, sponsors are sought who pledge to pay a certain amount per book read, and at the end of the set time the money is collected based on the final number of books read.

Benefits of read-a-thons

  • Minimal set-up costs
  • Can be done completely in-house (DIY)
  • No sales required
  • High support from parents and teachers
  • Suitable for all year groups Year 1+
  • Encourages children to read and a love of books

When should you run a read-a-thon?

A read-a-thon can be run at any time of year, but they are particularly suited to the winter months when there are fewer other fundraising options. Linking it to Book Week (August) is also another suitable time.

There are a number of ways you can organise the read-a-thon depending on whether you want to hold it in or out of school hours, for example:

  • Ten half hour sessions during class, over two weeks
  • Fifteen twenty minute sessions, during class, over three weeks
  • Two week period, out of class time
  • Four one hour sessions, held one afternoon after school for four weeks
  • A full day event (with reading sessions interspersed with other activities). Get everyone to wear their PJs and bring in cushions and beanbags for the reading sessions.
  • If you’re able to maintain motivation, you could run it for an entire term.

What do you need to hold a read-a-thon?


Once the time has been set, each child needs a pledge form – which collects the following information:

Name of sponsor, sponsor contact details, amount pledged per book, (optional) maximum amount of pledge.

They will also need a tally sheet where they can record the books they have read (alternatively, the number of pages read per session).

Rules of read-a-thon:

Rules should be set as to what books are suitable for each year group – for example, a 32 page picture book might be suitable for a Year 1, but should not be considered eligible for a year 3. The school needs to decide whether they are tallying pages or books. Another option is to tally the number of minutes the children read (at home) rather than the number of books.

All these decisions need to be made prior to starting the challenge. The only real rule for the children participating is to record their tally honestly.


Kids often need incentives to be involved, it’s a fact of life. So is the fact that kids get excited at the thought of prizes. Consider sourcing major and minor prizes, to encourage participating and maintain motivation. Major prizes can be offered to the children in each year group who read the most books and raise the most money, but smaller prizes can also be offered as random weekly prizes to maintain involvement. Incentives do not have to cost much money – read here for my article on getting kids involved.

Consider also offering prizes to kids who submit reviews of the books they read – not only does it guarantee that they actually read the book, but it also helps other children get ideas about good books to read. Leave pre-printed forms in the library, or even pads of large post-it notes which kids can write the book title, a one-line review and then a rating out of ten. Let them put the post-it notes up in the assembly or undercover area during the challenge and watch the walls quickly fill with colour.


Give at least two weeks notice before the challenge is about to begin with bright promotional signs around the school and in the newsletter. Consider asking students to suggest age-appropriate books they would recommend to their friends. Allow two weeks for students to gather sponsors, and most importantly – have fun with the read-a-thon for example:

Consider having a launch party for the read-a-thon, which could just be a modified assembly or tie in with a Book Week Parade.

Have everyone come dressed as their favourite book character.

Theme the classrooms, school office or undercover area to different books.

Run a book scavenger hunt (get kids to read books that relate to a certain ‘theme’ such a book with a colour in the title, a book with a girl/boys’ name in the title, a book about an animal, a book based on a true story, a book published before 1980, a book that their mum or dad loved as a kid etc) or Book Bingo. Check out my free downloadable Book Bingo cards here.

Have a second-hand book stall to fundraise extra money, or run a book swap.

For the younger years, set up a game of musical chairs where each chair has a different picture book that the kids have to read.

Set up book-themed craft activities at lunchtime, such as making bookmarks.

Have a book-themed Lego competition.

Hold a guess-how-many-books-in-our-library competition.

Fundraising with read-a-thon

Once the challenge is over and each child has an official tally of books they have read, allow them two weeks to collect the money from sponsors. This may be done with cash, direct deposit to the school/P&C or a combination of both.

Some schools may consider setting up personal fundraising pages for the students with sites such as Everyday Hero, which enables them to get sponsors who live further away. While there are fees associated with these sites (approximately 6.5% plus credit card processing fees), it is generally acknowledged that students who raise money online can earn much more than those who don’t as it allows them to reach out to friends and family outside their local community. This is especially important for schools in rural and remote areas.

Related articles: Book Bingo

Author: Shannon Meyerkort

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