Reading for Pennies: Penny Drive

K, 1, 2

This lesson will help students understand why people donate money to organizations and why organizations need money to help others. Learners will solicit pledges (may be money or goods) from family member in exchange for a certain number of minutes reading.

PrintOne Thirty to forty-five minute class period plus reading time to fulfill the pledge

The learner will:

  • set a reading goal and gather pledges to raise money or goods.
  • come to a consensus on which organization to support.
  • read and keep track of time spent reading.
  • Chart paper or chalkboard
  • Note to parents/guardians (handout: Reading Pledge Letter)
  1. How do you think your service made other people feel? 
  2. How do you think the ‘face of our world’ would look if no one demonstrated generosity?
  3. How do you think the ‘face of our world’ would look if everyone was giving and sharing?


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Teach the meaning of the word pledge by making a meaningful promise to the learners. Then, ask the class what is a promise. Ask the learners to recall a time they made a promise and what that meant to them. Tell them that the word pledge means the same thing as a promise and that you are going to explore why people make promise (pledges) to give money to a charity or nonprofit organization.

  2. Review the definition of philanthropy - giving time, talent, and treasure, or taking action for the common good - when they donate money to an organization they are philanthropists - they are giving treasure.

  3. Explain to the students that not all philanthropy is done by individuals. People create organizations that help people, communities, animals, and other issues. Often these organizations bring together many people to meet a need. Give examples of local philanthropic organizations with which they might be familiar. 

  4. Ask the learners why they think these organizations that help people need money or goods. Clarify any misconceptions that might arise and add to their understanding as needed.

  5. Tell the learners that even young people can donate money or goods to an organization. They can ask people to pledge to support them as they provide a service or do an activity. Talk about examples, such as read-athon, race sponsorships, and jumprope-a-thons.  

    Help the learners make a choice of what organization they would like to donate to. Choose perhaps 2 or 3 organizations that are of interest and the students learn about the organizations and use a decision-making model to narrow down to one. It is valuable for students to understand that philanthropy involves the freedom to make choices.

  6. For this fundraiser, each student promises to read a specific (minimum) number of minutes on a designated weekend. They ask their family and friends to pledge a certain amount of money for each unit (1 cent per minute, 1 dollar per chapter, one canned good per book) that the student reads over a designated time.

    Talk about the benefits of working together to make the gift more meaningful. They have to be brave to ask people for pledges, but they can be proud to be raising money for people who need their help.

  7. Teacher Note: If there are children who cannot participate, arrange in advance with fellow staff members to support these students with pennies so all have an opportunity to participate in the donation.

  8. The learners collect the gifts they earned from the pledges and bring the donations to class. Students categorize the money by types of coins or bills, count their money, and work together to calculate the class total.

  9. Reflect with the learners about the benefit of combining their money to give to an organization.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize that volunteering requires freedom of choice.
    3. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
    4. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.