This week was BOOK FAIR!

I love to see book fair arrive and I love to see it end. I love it because I get to see and read new (to me) books; it is something different than the same day to day STUFF (although, no day is the same in my library); it is fun to see how excited kids get when they walk in and see book fair set up; and it makes quite a bit of money for my library (which means MORE fun stuff like author visits, gadgets, books, ebooks, and apps). I love to see it end because I get back into the swing of things (research, lessons, check out, the “meat” of my job); I’m not a cashier anymore (in fact, one student said to me this week, “you make a better librarian than you do a cashier, Mrs. Byrd Fort”); and it means Thanksgiving is coming!!!

Book fair can be a little nervous-making to some and everyone likes to get new ideas from others, so here is what I do for book fair. Maybe someone, somewhere will get something out of it.

*I have always used Scholastic Book Fairs and I like them. I’ve had my issues with them, just like everyone else, but from what I have seen Scholastic LOOKS the best and they simply have a lot of selection and they make life easy in terms of all of the clip art and samples that are available in the Book Fair Tool Kit. I know there are other vendors for Book Fairs out there, but I like Scholastic. With that said, I’m sure some of the ideas I do can be used with other vendors, if that’s who you use.

*I start to advertise about a month in advance. I hang posters provided by Scholastic, I create some sort of commercial for our weekly morning news show, I use Scholastic’s Book Fair website wizard thingy to make a website about the book fair and I link that to my library’s page, I start to post stuff about book fair on our library’s Facebook page, and I give teachers a blurb that they can cut and paste into their classroom newsletters. Book Fair is not all I talk about the month prior, but I do try to get a buzz going about it.

*The week before book fair, I make sure to catch 3rd – 5th graders when they come to the library for checkout and make an announcement about our upcoming book fair. I show the video provided by Scholastic to kindergarten – 2nd grade. We also send home the book fair flyers with a letter attached that includes the schedule for book fair week as well as information about any other special events.

*Book Fair set up is fairly easy with Scholastic. Just open the crates and pull up the signs in the back. The hardest thing to set up is stuff in boxes. I have never been able to do that without a little breakdown, so it is good to have folks to help! I have a great assistant and I am lucky that the local book fair representative for Scholastic is also one of our moms at NPES. Both were a huge help in setting up the table stuff! For the tables, it is helpful to think about Barnes and Noble. Set the tables up like a display you’d see in a book store. Make it attractive. Build up the center with empty boxes covered by a tablecloth. One thing I like to do (and it helps with the amount of table product and space) is put the hardcover picture books along the top of the crates. Pictures would have been nice, I know – I’ll edit this post later in the week and add pics – promise!

*We always participate in One for Books and the Classroom Wish List program. One for Books allows you to collect money from folks to buy more books (Scholastic matches the amount in books and donates to programs like Toys for Tots). In the past, I’ve used this money to buy books for classroom teachers or for books that I’ve used as giveaways. This year, we bought books to donate to Happy Wheels – an organization that gives books and toys to kids at a local hospital. We will do it this way from here on out, I think! It teaches kids the importance of doing things for others and we collected more donations this year…I think because folks knew exactly what we were using the money for. We keep a box at our register for folks to drop their donations in. For the wish list program, teachers come in on our teacher preview day (or sometime during book fair week) and fill out little slips with titles of books that they would like for their classroom. As parents and students shop, they can buy a book for the classroom. We have boxes from IKEA that we use for the books that have been purchased. This looks nice and has worked well, I think. I have used a variety of containers from grocery bags to shoe boxes.

*We always have a family night. We try to schedule it along with something else going on in the school.

*A new thing that worked well this year (and happened by chance, really) was that teachers spent their PTA money at the book fair! The PTA gives teachers $75 to buy books for their classroom each year. I think one of the teachers asked if they could use that money at book fair and of course they could! I was given one of the credit cards to ring up teacher purchases – this was a GREAT idea. Not only did it help the teachers (time saver!), but it helped us sell more books!

*When students come in to shop book fair, they can fill out a wish list to take home. The wish list has space for only 5 things and it includes important book fair information (hours, dates, etc.). I think this reminds parents we are having a book fair and gives students who don’t bring in money a chance to still look around and enjoy the book fair with a purpose.

*I only run my book fair for one week. I know some folks like to do one week of preview and one week of sales, but that seems silly to me and would take SO MUCH TIME! We have a flexible schedule, so lots of kids come in before their scheduled day to take a look at what’s what and that seems to work fine.

*I don’t go crazy at my fair. Scholastic gives lots of great suggestions for games you can play, displays you can set up, ways to integrate the book fair theme into your curriculum, and that’s great – some folks might really get into that. However, I like to keep it simple. I stick to the theme as much as possible, but I don’t go overboard. Don’t make yourself nuts.

*I sold LOTS of book award nominees this year and I think that is because I did book award book talks the week right before book fair. I will do that again next year, for sure.

*My last tip – I don’t take posters or bookmarks or STUFF to sell. If it is sent to me by Scholastic, I don’t put it out. That stuff makes me crazy. I am sure that I would sell a lot of it, but at some point in the past 10 years, I realized that it probably isn’t fun for parents to send their kid to school with money for book fair only to find them come home with 5 highlighters, a poster, and a sticker book.

SO! That’s my book fair, folks! Hope you got something out of this very long post!

Now, onto THANKSGIVING! Gobble, gobble!



About Valerie Byrd Fort

I live in South Carolina. I am passionate about libraries, books, and reading. I am also a mom. This is my blog about those things.
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