I Believe in Book Fairs

 I wrapped up a book fair last week. I enjoy watching students browse during the book fair, browsing with them, talking and enjoying the whole experience. I have come to embrace book fairs, but it wasn't always this way. When I was a new librarian, I did not like the idea of book fairs. Not in my library. I thought, What an un-librarian like thing to do. Sell things to students, use valuable school time, pull students away from their reading and research. Not only that, but the pesky book fair was pulling me away from my important work. I decided it was a necessary evil, however, because I needed some new library books and some books for book clubs. When I conducted my first book fairs, I did not enjoy them. I felt stressed about theft and handling money, and I hated the non-book "stuff" that came with the books. 

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.
Of course, there are more reasons why book fairs are great. I am sure some would argue that I am completely off-base in my support of book fairs. Auntie Librarian says you should let go and embrace your book fairs! Don't get too hung up over "the non-book stuff" that comes with the fair. Don't stress too much over theft or it will ruin your experience.  Enjoy the book fair with your students and you will feel better.  As my Ma used to say, "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think!"



Cathy Jo Nelson said...

Terrific write up! In the past (when I was at Northside Elem in Rock Hill) I had my bookfairs AND my classes. I never cancelled a single class, and I had a rotating schedule to bring all the kids in to view it in three days, while at the same time having those scheduled classes. It made for a busy and exhausting week, but always worthwhile. For those classes that I had, I always let them choose a book for me to read, and the ones we liked the MOST we always purchased a copy for the library. For the gimicky stuff, I had yellow painters tape on the floor and this was known as the do not cross line, and was well out fo reach of hands that wanted to handle things. The rule was only with a parent, teacher, or adult could one cross the yellow line. I always enjoyed bookfair too---makes me (lunacy!!) want to consider one for high school.

V Wallace @ SLIS said...

Bottom line, you have book fairs for your students: (1)raises money for programs planned for them (2) allows them to be consumers (3) gives them an opportunity to relate what they see at the fair with the same types of books already in the library (4) creates a common basis for discussion (5) so what if some of the merchandise is non-book, provides fun opportunities, which all of us need and (6) pulls the entire school library community together: students, librarian, teachers, administration, and parents. I believe every level (elementary, middle, and high) should have book fairs!

Jennifer Tazerouti said...

Dr. Wallace- Thank you for the comment, the inspiration and for being a fantastic teacher. Congratulations on your new book.

Cathy - It's always business as usual even when the book fair is here. We still check out books, open the computer lab and have classes.
Congratulations on your new e-book entry!