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Sneak peek: Inside you will find examples and best practices on how to write a grant proposal to fund acquiring Spanish-language books for your classroom library. 

Personally to date, I have received over $7,000 in funding for my classroom FVR library. Getting funding for your classroom can be daunting. It certainly involves its fair amount of rejections and isn’t for the faint of heart, but with the right amount of determination, it is possible!

Books for heritage Spanish class

If you are feeling frustrated with this process, I can relate. Mainly, I’m writing this to encourage you to get back on the horse and keep on keeping on! I applied to numerous grants in order to get the funding I needed. I was denied countless times, but sometimes it only takes one “yes,” to make all the difference for your students. Rest assured, the impact is worth the effort. If I can do it, so can you!

Scrounging up grant money for your classroom can be time-consuming. If you don’t know what to write or you aren’t sure if you will even qualify, this post is for you!  

I’ll show you excerpts from successful grant submissions that received funding from and guide you towards topics you should highlight in your proposals so that you can increase the likelihood of success in funding your classroom library too!

Amazon boxes of book donations

Any one topic below, alone and on its own, will not guarantee you access to funding. I like to think of a grant proposal as a most-excellent puzzle. Comprised of enough good pieces, the grant is more likely to be completed into the funding phase. Skipping over any of the topics below may mean that a crucial box is left unticked for the selection committee or grant approval board. I would really love to try and help you navigate the process.

Need

empty blue bookshelves

Need is essential. Need is king. Unfortunately, one thing that is beyond your control: perception of need. Donors are looking to help out schools that are in great need of funds, so you will want to make sure you fit that requirement before you spend time writing your proposal. So, what demonstrates whether or not your school and student population demonstrate “enough need?”

You will need to do some research about the specifics of your school. I emailed certain staff in our district office in order to get facts about our enrollment. So just know, if you’re unsure about the classifications of your school, your own district office is going to be the best place for you to start. If your school is categorized as a “Title I” school this will help you highlight need. Yet another angle of approach: if your school has a large percentage of students that qualify for free and reduced lunch, your chances of getting a grant are much higher. At my school, about 46% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Here is an excerpt on this topic from one of my grant proposals:

“All students deserve access to novels in their first language at school. I teach in a low-income high school where two of my classes are specifically for heritage Spanish speaking students. Heritage Spanish speakers lack access to books in Spanish at my school because our school library has limited offerings. 46% percent of our school is on free and reduced lunch. Many of our students cannot afford to purchase books on their own.”

Who are your students

heritage speaking students

You need to be specific about who your students are so the donors can picture who will be using these books. Whether it is a breakdown of the ethnicity percentages, the age ranges you teach, or a special area of interest or study that is under-represented in your schools text offerings, these are important aspects to include. If the donors can put familiarity to a grant letter, if they can picture the end user, there is a better chance you will be approved. You will really want to custom tailor your grant proposal to the entity you are requesting the funding from. Most often, the name of the entity will clue you in as to which angles to pursue in your letter. As such, I’ve included separate examples from two different and successful grant proposals to highlight the different avenues of approach that can be helpful to utilize.

students reading books in classroom

Here is an excerpt on this topic from one of my grant proposals:

“Heritage Spanish Speakers spend most of their school day speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English. If their mother tongue is not nurtured and maintained, subtractive bilingualism occurs. Many of our students are fluent in speaking and listening, but cannot read or write very well. Our aim is to support the mother tongue of our students so they can achieve complete bilingualism which will serve them greatly in their future careers. Free voluntary reading is fundamental in our approach. By increasing the desire to read, students will read more. By reading more, students will be able to write more.”

students in classroom library

Here is another excerpt on this topic from one of my grant proposals:

“My students are at varying levels in terms of literacy. Differentiation is so important, and providing books for free-reading at varying levels is an amazing way to reach each student where they are at.”

Equity

students reading in Spanish class

Thankfully, many schools, districts and levels of education are beginning to recognize the importance of equity. If your students are Latino (heritage speaker students) you will definitely want to mention that. 

Here is how I highlighted this in my grant proposal:

“My school has acknowledged the need to offer heritage Spanish courses for students. Students deserve the chance to learn about their culture and learn the academic components of their mother tongue. Unfortunately, although our school has acknowledged the need for an equitable learning experience, building a classroom library is expensive. I hope to provide a rich learning environment for our Spanish speaking population by obtaining funding for a classroom library.”

Here is another excerpt that addresses equity:

“I teach the heritage Spanish classes at my school. Our school has offered this course for seven years now.  This class is an educational oasis for our Latino students as they get to speak Spanish without fear of judgement from other students. They enjoy taking this class because they get to learn about and celebrate different Latino cultures. In this class, we focus on strengthening their literacy skills in Spanish which helps them become officially bilingual, and not simply fluent in speaking. 

I am very excited as our school has just approved the offering of a middle school course for Spanish speaking students next year. Our school has made strides towards equity over the last two years and we now offer a club for Latinos called Comunidad de Latinos Unidos. Our school has also started a Black Pride Organization, a Women’s Society, and a group called SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance). All four of these groups are banded together in promoting the message that “every voice matters.”


Language Skill Transfer

female latina student reading

Studies show that concepts mastered in a first language are easily transferred to the second language. That is to say, helping my students speak, read, listen, and learn better in Spanish, is going to help my students speak, read, listen and learn better in other subjects and languages as well! If we want to help build a better United States of America, we must start by building better students that trickle out from our classrooms to form our society.

Here is an excerpt from my proposal that highlighted this concept:

“Creating a classroom library will be huge for helping Spanish-speaking students strengthen their literacy skills in their first language that has now been pushed aside due to their high-use of English. While Spanish was once their dominant language, it has been replaced with English and they are losing some of their bilingualism, especially when it comes to literacy. In our school district, Latino students take all their academic classes in English, except for my class. Many times students adapt to the English environment at our school, and therefore don’t practice their first language.  By encouraging literacy in Spanish speaking students, we will continue to nurture a large part of their identity. Many Latino Americans lament losing their Spanish abilities, but these books will help Latino youth strengthen and maintain their Spanish skills. Additionally, strengthening their literacy skills in their mother tongue sets them up for success with their English literacy as well because of skill transfer.”

Plan for Use

literary circle books in Spanish class

It’s important to detail a clear vision of how these materials will be used in your classroom. Again, one of the biggest keys for grant committees is to get a sense for what they are contributing to, and if they can get behind the vision you are more likely to be approved. They want to picture their gift being put to best-use, so help showcase your room and application as a prime destination!

Here is an excerpt that highlights this from my proposal:

“Do you remember a certain book that caused you to fall in love with reading? My task as the Spanish teacher for the heritage Spanish speaking students is to connect my students with a free-reading book that fits their reading level and interest in order to create lifelong readers. The plan for the funds is to purchase more books in Spanish of different genres and reading levels for our classroom library. These books will be used for free-reading during the first ten minutes of class. Reading for pleasure is an amazing classroom tool as students acquire grammar and spelling naturally while getting lost in a book. This is an effective strategy for helping students maintain fluency in reading and writing.”

class set novel

Here is another excerpt on this topic from a different proposal more geared towards classroom novel sets:

“To start off the year, I would like to begin with a gripping novel that is at an easy level so I can begin to assess my students’ reading abilities. A class novel we all read together opens up the opportunity for class discussions.

This book will be a great starting point for our Heritage Spanish class. The reading level of this book is great for beginners and still entertaining for advanced readers. By starting out with an easy reader that is still highly engaging, students will feel successful right away.

This novel will give us a chance to explore topics such as family, relationships, health-care systems, and tough decisions.

This class set of readers will be an asset to our curriculum for years to come. This donation will impact thousands of students as this novel will serve as a resource beyond this school year.”

Long-term Impact

Frida Kahlo class set novel

The great thing about funding a classroom library is that the funding’s impact is not just temporary. Who knows just how many students an effective book might propel, and who knows to what heights they may rise to as a result. This wonderment and hope is a fine thing to showcase, as they gain the sense that plugging into your classroom will do the most good for the most people.

Here’s how I highlighted this in my grant proposal: 

“This project will be sustained beyond the grant period. By providing books in Spanish for students at my school, you are promoting inclusivity that will last far beyond this school year. Year after year, hundreds and eventually thousands of students will benefit from this donation. They will feel like their culture and mother tongue is not just acknowledged, but honored in our school.”

Total Transformation

classroom fvr library Spanish class

Books, by their very nature command the direction of a space. It is hard not to feel studious in a library. It is easier to learn and work in an office with a wall of books. Classrooms are no different. Books have the uncanny ability to induce a sense of focus and purpose. Help the donor catch a vision of how funding this project will completely transform your classroom dynamic.

Here’s how I highlighted this in my grant proposal:

“If we can build a classroom library, we will be able to implement Free Voluntary Reading into our Heritage Spanish Speaker course curriculum. Students will have access to a variety of novels. The novels will include different genres of literature as well as different reading levels. Free Voluntary Reading is a way that we as educators can differentiate for our students. Heritage Speaker students come to us with a wide range of abilities. By implementing this strategy, all students will be engaged and challenged.

Students will spend several full class periods per week reading independently. The teacher will have time to work with students individually during that time, on their reading or assessing their writing projects. This time will be invaluable to me as the teacher, to be able to close the gaps in each student’s abilities. Students will be able to check out the books so that if they choose to take them home they may continue reading outside of class. 

This classroom library will also allow students to participate in literary circles where they will read the same book as a few of their peers. They will discuss, critique, and present as a group about the novel they read together. As one moves forward in life, it becomes apparent that reading is important, but just as important is the retention and ability to explain what you learned and how you feel about the subject as a result of learning more about it.” 

Specific List

Finally, in order for your proposal to be taken seriously, you need to include a spreadsheet or list of what materials you will be purchasing and how much they will cost. This shows the donors that you have put a lot of thought into how the funds will be used. Waste is probably the single thing that the donors fear in making their choice, so put their minds at ease. They will have no doubt that they can trust you with their donation, when they know exactly where it is going. 

Personal Stories

students selecting a book in class

If you can share a personal story about your class or students, your proposal will stand out. Better yet, if you can include the words of a student, it has an additional pull on the donors hearts and minds, as they see how the student views the gifts/books.

Here is an excerpt that highlights this, used in one of my proposals:

“This year I have seen the impact that relevant books can have on a student’s attitude towards reading. Seeing students resonate with certain books has been exhilarating. I will share three examples of students connecting with certain books. I have one afro-latina student in my class and she was immediately drawn to the book “El odio que das” which in English is called “The hate you give.” This book appealed to her and she even asked if she could check it out so she could read it at home too. Another book offering in my class is called “Los tres amigos” or “The three friends” that is centered on a LGBTQ theme. One of my gay students immediately gravitated toward this book and I could tell that he felt accepted and included because of this book being offered in class. Finally, I have a student who struggles with language processing both in English and Spanish. During free reading he completed an easy reading book and said in a thank you letter to the donor, “…(sic)…Thank you for donating these books to Mrs. Nygaard classroom. I have read one book, even though I don’t like reading, I ACTUALLY found the book interesting. I have learn a lot of words from reading and I apperciate donating these books to read. Remember I don’t like reading.”   

thank you letter for book donation

Images

students and books in classroom

Last but not least, if possible, it can be helpful to share images. Be careful not to show student faces, but having them in the picture with something over their face will make your proposal memorable.

Need ideas on which grants to submit your proposal to? Check out this blog post! 

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