Off-the-Wall Book Fair Promotions Encourage Reading, Boost Sales

By Kory Gott, Librarian and Book Fair Chairperson, McCain Middle School in Payette, Idaho  

Before and after
With the help of some very off-the-wall – and on-top-of-the roof – faculty challenges, McCain Middle School in Payette, Idaho rallied students to read, while nearly doubling its previous Book Fair sales record last spring.

McCain's 375 students were advised that if Book Fair sales hit the $2,000 mark, faculty members would perform a series of wacky stunts, including Principal Sandy Holloway who vowed to sit on the school roof for a day. Librarian and Book Fair chairperson Kory Gott and her student marketing team dreamed up the promotion, which also included a pledge by Gott to "go completely Goth" for the day by dressing in black from head to toe.

Other faculty members promised to dress in bizarre outfits and perform messy stunts in front of the student body during a special assembly…teachers would dye or bleach their hair, perform push-ups in Jello, and serve as targets for student-tossed cream pies. Students spending $10 or more were to be given raffle tickets to win pottery, books and posters.

The promised amusements stirred plenty of interest, even among skeptics. On the day of reckoning, eager book-buyers, undoubtedly motivated by images of teachers wiping cream pie from their face, exceeded the $2,000 goal, much to the dismay of some faculty members who were less than thrilled with suffering a day's worth of indignity at the hands of giddy, snickering pupils.

Principal Holloway spent seven hours on the roof in the pouring rain, pacing back and forth with umbrella in hand, much to the delight of kids listening to her footsteps in the classrooms below. When Gott arrived looking like a Kiss band member and sporting tattoos and a raven-black hairdo, several faculty members mistook her for a new student.

Some of the administrators thought I was new ... so I sat there and pretended to be registering for school," Gott said. "The kids couldn't believe it was me." Later, during the assembly, she joined a fellow male teacher, who dressed as a female rock star, and the duo sang tunes from the movie Grease and High School Musical. 

Following the assembly, faculty members, still in their goofy garb, had to attend an area teachers conference where they were subjected to lots of "who are these jokers" stares from other teachers.

"We must have looked like a bunch of delinquent punks and psychos," said Gott, who spent a month trying to remove fake tattoos from her arms. "The men were embarrassed by their bleached and pink and green hair."

Gott and her crew also created other promotions to help generate traffic to the Fair, including a Grandparents' Day luncheon, book talks, special-prize raffles, and classroom video broadcasts.

What advice does Gott have for other Book Fair organizers? "Get the upfront support of everyone – teachers and administrator – to help promote the event ... and get kids involved in the planning. Show them that reading is fun. Then you're going to have a successful Fair." 
Connect Kids With Books They Want to
Read – Schedule a Book Fair Today!