I lamented about having book fairs in one of my journal assignment entries during library school. Having a book fair was horrible, and I was embarrassed about having one. My professor, Dr. Wallace, responded to my rant by saying, "NEVER feel bad about having a book fair!" I was shocked. I thought, Really? We have book fairs to support our library programs. "Why are you having a book fair in the first place?" she asked. Remembering this, I now realize why I was having such a hard time with book fairs. We have book fairs to raise money for our library program. What I know now, as I reflect on that moment, is that, at the time, I did not believe that my library program was worthy or important enough to merit a week-long fundraiser. That was before I realized that I had super powers, a cape and all. I'm so different now.
After last week's book fair I can easily list a few reasons why I believe book fairs are great:
- Excitement: Do you remember the excitement of the book fair coming when you were in school? I do! and I LOVED it. Students still love the book fair. It is a part of the school year to which they look forward. It's festive and fun, similar to a pep rally, but for the library. Even the teachers look forward to it.
- Learning about Money: What better place to learn to handle money than at school where your teachers are there to help you? Students will ask and find answers to questions such as: How much tax is on a dollar? How much will these two items cost? Do I have enough money to pay for these two items? Is it okay to hand the cashier a wadded-up dollar bill? Should I count my money first before I hand it to the cashier? I use the book fair to teach these simple lessons to students and insist that they be careful with their money.
- Consumer Lessons: The fair is a great place for students to practice being consumers and ask important questions such as: Is this item worth the price they are seeking? What is the value of the item to me? Is this a fair price? If I want two items but only have enough for one, which one should I get? Which is the best value or choice for me?
- Browsing: I enjoy going to Barnes & Noble and browsing. Hours fly by like minutes as I get lost in books and magazines. I encourage my students to have the same experience and try to give them enough time to pick up the books, open them, browse, sit down and look through a book or two. I encourage students to make notes of the books they believe they might like to read or that they would like the library to purchase. It was touching to see a group of "tough" 8th grade boys sitting down at the book fair tables engrossed in books, sharing with each other and reading together. I remember laughing hysterically with students as we looked at the Klutz book, Rule The World: 119 Shortcuts to Total World Domination at last year's book fair. I always tell my students, "If you see a book at the fair that you like, we already may have a copy in the library." Some students go right to the shelves and check out a book they saw at the book fair. After the fair is over, I am hounded relentlessly until I get all the books that I've pulled from the fair processed and put on the shelves.
- Giveaways: I give away at least $100 worth of merchandise to students and teachers every fair. It feels great!
- Profit: I have earned at least $300 worth of books from every book fair I have hosted.When the fair goes really well I get cash profit. A few of he items we have purchased with my book fair profit are: Playaway batteries, new audio books, book club materials, multiple copies of new popular new releases, board games, field trips, family game night, a Wii console, Wii games, family literacy night, seasonal decorations, summer and winter reading programs and rewards, professional development and more.