School Book Fair Best Practices and Fresh Ideas
Hosting a book fair is a terrific fundraiser and community-builder for any school. Kids get excited about reading and familes get to spend time togehter on campus. Here are 11 tips for how to organize, publicize, and make your book fair a fun and exciting event that kids (and parents) will look forward to year after year!
- Get organized: Gather a planning team or committee to decide on dates, a place, a vendor (e.g. Scholastic, Barnes and Noble, local book sellers), and a theme for your book fair. You might consider scheduling your book fair around the same time as National Book Week in the fall and National Library Week in the spring, or Read Across America, held in March. Just prior to the holiday season is another good time to schedule the book fair to encourage families to buy books as gifts, as is right before summer vacation to stock up on summer reading materials. Be sure to include one or more family-centered evening shopping opportunities or parallel the book fair with parent-teacher conference week so families may easily attend.
- Coordinate book selections: Work with teachers, librarians, reading professionals, and the book fair vendor to determine the best books for the students at your school. Boost sales by including several interesting gift selections for parents (e.g. best-sellers and cookbooks) and reading-related merchandise like bookmarks, reading lights, pencils, and writing pads. If holding a fall book fair at a public school, be sure to include books about many different holiday traditions. Also consider your parent preferences when ordering inventory; e.g. will you include religious-themed books? books featuring popular cartoon or video game characters?
- Bring on the show: Scheduling entertainment at several different points during your book fair builds interest and increases the shopping traffic. Have the choir sing a few songs, the strings program play for the crowd, or local authors or costumed volunteers read to the children. Ideally, several grades will have a chance to perform and showcase their talent during the book fair. Families can't resist a chance to see their children perform - and while they are there, kids can't resist shopping!
- Recruit & schedule volunteers: Ask parents, teachers, members of the community, and older students to help. VolunteerSpot lets you to set up an online calendar that volunteers can easily access to choose their own time slots, and sends an automatic email reminder two days prior to their shift. Giving volunteers flexible choices for volunteering allows everyone to find a job they are comfortable with. Possible roles include setting up and cleaning up, shopping assistants, cashiers, entertainment, and classroom escorts. Offer 50 minute time slots, and allow ten minutes between each class visit to the book fair so volunteers have time to tidy up and restock.
- Publicize: Ask the children to make posters (hold a contest!), and post them in the hallways, in the carpool lane, and on school bus windows (if allowed). Place an announcement in the school newsletter and advertise on the school website. Send fliers home with envelopes for kids to plan their purchases - be sure each child knows what day his/her class will be visiting the book fair. Ask teachers to talk to their classes about books that will be on sale at the the book fair to build interest and excitement.
- Set up for success: Post your volunteer assignments in one place so that everyone knows what they are supposed to do and when. Post instructions for how to operate the cash register and train your cashiers. Keep good records and create clear cash-handling procedures. Arrange the books by reading level, holiday theme, or author. Decorate the area with posters and displays. Prepare for snacks and refreshments to keep your team energized!
- Special events: Encourage families to attend in the evening by hosting a barbecue, spaghetti dinner, or ice-cream social in conjunction with the book fair. Offer mini-workshops to parents while the kids shop, sharing tips and activities for encouraging their kids to read. Raffle off prizes and gift certificates. These special events add excitement and draw more people to the book fair!
- Guide 'em: Assign a few volunteers to serve as “guides” for younger students, helping them select books. Having guides wear a fun hat, ribbon or other prop helps kids know whom to ask for help. Give guides a small stash of change to subsidize kids who may be just a little shy on the purchase price.
- Teachers too: Ask each teacher to make a personal wish-lists of several books (s)he would like to have in the classroom. Have these selections set-aside in well-marked boxes or baskets for shoppers to purchase as gifts. Provide name-plate stickers and pens so the buyer can dedicate these new class treasures.
- Smooth checkout: Stamp books after they have been paid for, bag the items, and provide a receipt. Many local grocery stores will donate branded reusable grocery bags as an added bonus for shoppers.
- Thank everyone: Send volunteers a personalized note or paragraph of recognition in the school newsletter and/or website. Thanks families for participating in purchasing books - you may consider taking a picture of the all books purchased for the teachers and library. Be sure to also publicize how much money you raised during the event so parents can see how their contributions add up in support of the school.
We hope these tips, together with VolunteerSpot, will help your book fair be even more fun and productive than ever before... dare we say a fabulous fundraiser!
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