So what are you doing to get ready for school? Most parents are buying school clothes and supplies. Teachers are too. If you don’t have kids, what are you doing? The purpose of this article is to provide ideas of ways ordinary citizens can contribute to local schools.



If you have time the week before the children actually start back to school, you might call the school nearest you to ask if there is any way you might help. Sometimes school administration needs forms counted out to give students the first day of school, and teachers would appreciate help arranging the classroom.



Retired people and people with flexible schedules can contribute volunteer time. You can ask to help children in small groups in the classroom or become a one on one buddy reader for children who need extra time reading to an adult. This activity is very rewarding because you see the children grow over the year.



Schools can also use help in other ways. The librarian will surely love your help shelving books and helping students check out books. Teachers will be appreciative of your help making copies for the classroom work of their students.



If you can’t provide weekly assistance, you can volunteer to help with special projects. Book fairs are a perfect example of these projects. You would work cash registers and/or help children select books to purchase. Or, you could donate money to the school for children whose parents cannot afford to buy books. When schools have fund raisers, volunteers are needed as well. Science Fairs are another way you can volunteer if you have a science background. Judges are needed in many categories.



If you can’t donate time, there are other ways to help. Perhaps you can donate money to help the teachers. A recent poll published on ASCD BriefSmart, a newsfeed of current articles pertaining to education, stated that 91 percent of teachers buy school supplies for the classroom using personal money. You could provide gift cards to use at bookstores and office supply stores, as well. Even donating five dollars a month could help.



Many teachers, especially in middle and high school, sponsor activities and pay for the entry fees for these activities out of their own pockets. While most athletic teams are sponsored by schools, academic teams frequently are not.



If you own a business, you might consider offering incentives to the schools to help motivate children to do their best. This can be in the form of products or cash rewards. For example, children should be reading at least one million words per school year. Schools have a way to track the number of words each child has read using the Accelerated Reader computer program. Elementary school children seem to respond well to rewards. This is one way you can make a difference.



Several businesses could join together and offer writing contests for children. My research into the childhoods of famous writers identified that the majority of these writers won writing contests when they were young. Providing children a reward, recognition and feedback just might be the spark that will lead to a great journalist or novelist in the future.



Steve “Wos” Wosniak, co-founder of Apple, loved electronics as a kid. Lucky for him, he lived in a Silicon Valley neighborhood full of engineers. In an interview he stated that most of the dads on his street satiated his curiosity about electronics. One of those dads was Steve Jobs', and you know how that turned out. Share your interests with young people. Become a mentor outside of school. Okaloosa County Schools had a formalized mentor program. Check this website: http://www.okaloosaschools.com/district/sos-mentor



As the start of school draws near, begin to think of what you might be able to do to help the education of children. The children will benefit greatly from your efforts. You will have the gratification of “building the future.”



Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher and educational consultant who lives in Destin.