Last year, we began the year with a sight-reading challenge where each student earned a quarter (could be a dime or nickel depending on your studio size) for every day that they sight0-read. I challenged the parents to match this reward and after doing this for a month, we donated the money to our local 501c3 organization that helps visually impaired children. I thought it fitting that we use our own eyes to help those without the use of theirs.

This year, I wanted to do the same program because it’s a great way to jump start the year with good sight reading habits! But I felt led to look for a way to help someone in my own circle of influence within my own community. One of my piano families is seeking to adopt a child with special needs from a very poor country in Europe. The conditions of orphanages are dismal in this poor countries and children with special needs (like down syndrome for example) are only given a cursory glance from many caregivers in orphanages. There are all kinds of needs here, but the family shared with me that you can donate to the adoption of a specific child who has a family that has started the process of adopting them!

The money that is donated through this organization (also a 501c3) stays with the child so that if an adoption fall through, the money will be saved for the next family that seeks to adopt a child. None of the money goes to the organization and I do not have any connection with this organization. Since the process of adoption an international child begins around $25,000, families need all the help that they can get just to adopt the children, not to mention all the medical care these special needs children will need once they arrive in their adoptive family’s life. Some families do not even know what medical conditions these children have because the orphanages do not know themselves due to lack of medical care for these special children.  Some 8 year old children are the size of toddlers simply because of malnutrition and lack of human touch. Amazing things happen when these children are adopted into loving families and I’m so excited to work with my piano studio to help support the adoptive efforts.

This is just ONE suggestion about where you could donate any sight-reading challenge money. Go ahead and take a look at some of the children whose prospective families are in the homestudy process, compiling their dossier, almost completed the adoption process, and more categories on their home pages, including children listed by special needs, and children who do not have prospective families yet.

How would I do this sight reading challenge?

Here’s the idea that you can easily adapt to your needs:

  • Find an organization to which you want to donate. If not for the special needs adoption organization, then you can try some of these organizations listed at the bottom of this post that work with the visually impaired.
  • Make sure your students have sight reading material.  There are a host of sight-reading books at all levels.  I have been using a lot of my old books lately that I have divided into levels. For my advanced students, I have them sight read the first 2 lines of advanced pieces from their books.
  • Decide how much per day, per student you can give.  For example, make September your giving month and give anywhere from $.05 to $.25 per student per day that they sight read.  It may not seem like much, but it adds up.  So, calculate what is the most that you will be able to give and work backwards, assuming that your students will sight-read 5-6 days per week.
  • Send out information about the organization to which you are donating and how you plan to donate for every day that your students sight read.  Ask parents to consider matching your donations or even giving over and above what you give.
  • Keep a chart in your studio so that students can keep track of how many days they sight read, and you can keep track of how much money you are giving.  In my small studio last year, I was giving $.25 per student per day, so I found a graphic at our local teaching store of a bunch of quarters on a page.  The students colored a quarter in for every day that they sight read.  It was a great visual reminder of what they were doing and some of them got very competitive with the other students, so it was highly motivating. Here is the Quarters Chart that you can use (you could just tell your students that you’ll give a dime or nickel and still use the chart if you need to.)
  • At the end of the month, calculate how much you are giving, remind parents to send you their matching donations, and send all of that to the sight-saving organization you are supporting.  Include a letter explaining that this was from your students and how you organized this.  They will love hearing about it!

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 3.42.54 PMThere are many things that you could do to expand this idea, so I’d love to hear about it if you do this.  I expanded it last year during the Christmas season to come up with this ornament challenge (part 1 and part 2) which the kids absolutely loved (and which did not cost me anything except a little time and more time having fun with my students since the prize was an extra 15-20 minutes of group lesson games)! This is a wonderful way to be able to give to those in need, give our students the opportunity to earn money for a good cause, and to help our students sharpen their sight-reading skills as well!

Don’t forget to check out the other preparing for fall posts. Or simply take a look at all the new posts on the blog! There are and will be lots of new ideas coming your way so be sure to sign up for the newsletter if you do not already receive it!

Cover photo by Andreas-photography