On March 24th of this year I found out I was running a book fair–on May 1st. I admit, when I opened that box and found out, there was a lot of “I’m doing what? WHEN?” I’d never run a book fair before, or even a major event by myself, though I’ve been part of running conventions for years, so it was a little intimidating, especially since the Battle of the Books was already coming up in April and my teams had to finish training.
I began by immediately signing up for the Scholastic book fair webinar, and I should say here how helpful Scholastic was, especially my liaison Vanessa. They have webinars, guides, online reproducibles and forms and letters and web art that you can use, and all sorts of bonuses and promotions and sample boxes of books. They make it as easy as they possibly can for someone to set it up and start selling.
The theme Scholastic had decided on for the book fairs that year was the Kingdom of Books, and I love fantasy so I was perfectly happy to run with that (plus, why do extra work to come up with a new theme when all of the signage, web art, etc. had already been made?). I started planning out what needed to be done, what I wanted to do extra, what materials and help I would need, and when everything needed to be done by. I had a million ideas, but only so many could realistically be done. And of course, everything had to be done in between my regular work, and the Battle of the Books, and the normal school operations.
To promote the Book Fair, I got some of the students to make posters which we scattered around the school, as well as putting up the official posters that Scholastic had sent. I wrote short scripts that the students read over the announcements in the morning, talking about different books that would be sold at the book fair. I gave the Book Fair details to the office to be included in the newsletter home to parents. I read the sample books provided by Scholastic to the classes during their regular storytimes. I ran four art and story contests, with the winners picked by a panel of teachers and myself. They each got to pick out one free item from the Book Fair, from a promotion allowance that Scholastic provided.
Everything was delivered on May 1st, and I had to completely transform my library. I received both rolling bookshelves that could be opened with the product was already on it, and boxes full of books that had to be arranged on table as well as setting up the signage. My thanks to the grade 8 students who helped me move tables and drape tablecloths and put out books and get everything set up (they were so sad to miss French, of course). I put up the poster display, arranged the display of bookmarks, highlighters, pens, erasers, etc., and set up the checkout tables with the credit card machines, reorder forms, signage, etc. that they needed. I created a playlist that I had running during the Book Fair (mostly Heather Dale and Loreena McKennit, with the Wicked, Shrek: the Musical, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella soundtracks mixed in. They were the most fairy tale-ish music I had).
I also set up a small activity center for the kids to play in. My sister donated a cardboard castle, and I purchased some fairy-tale themed dress-up items (inside the red treasure chest in the pictures) using my own money–tiaras and fair wands, a knight’s armour set, a wizard’s hat, etc. I do have pictures of the kid playing with them (especially the bigger kids), but the school’s photography policy means I can’t post anything here with the kids’ faces or names. But you can take my word for it, they’re pretty funny. And I may or may not have gone around for the week wearing a crown. Hey, if the crown fits…
I set up a small table with colouring and activity sheets and crayons. I also made a storyboard set. I printed off the web art that Scholastic had created, found a background image I liked on Google images and printed it too, coloured them, laminated them, cut them out, then stuck everything on a whiteboard easel with sticky tack. It came out quite nicely, and other than the sticky tack it was all materials I had around the library.
All together, the Book Fair was open for one week, with a teacher preview on the Friday it was delivered, the next Monday and Tuesday were viewing days so the kids could make a list of what they wanted and show their parents before bringing in money, and the Wednesday and Thursday were the main buying days (though if anyone wanted to purchase their books before Wednesday, I certainly didn’t turn down money). Friday morning everything had to be packed up and ready to return. I opened early Wednesday morning for parents who dropped off their children in the morning, and Thursday night was the school open house, so I held a family event then for parents to come and shop for books. I actually ended up being at the school on Thursday from before 8 in the morning until after 10:30 at night (less the half-hour I took to go get a pizza, of course. Gotta have fuel). I had recruited a parent and a teacher and more than 20 students to work during the family event, to keep everything tidy and answer questions and cash people out, and it was still insanely busy.
But at the end, I was very pleased with the results. We passed the goal I set! I set a goal of $5000, and we made $6296.15 gross. Hooray! Lots of new books for the library, and lots of new books that the kids got to keep! Talk about a win-win!
Looking back, there are things I would do differently if I had to do it again. While the kids were excited to volunteer and help out, I really needed an assistant to help watch them and make sure everyone was doing their designated job instead of goofing around. I could have emphasized a little more that they were there to work. The organization of the announcements could have been a little tighter. The classroom wish list program wasn’t terribly successful.
That said, I’m very proud of what I accomplished. I surpassed my sales goal. I planned, organized, promoted, set up, ran, and tore down the book fair, and I did most of it by myself. I think everyone who attended had fun, and most of the students bought something. It was definitely a challenge, but one I met, and ultimately it was a great experience. Now let’s see what my next challenge will be…