Shared Success: 'Wild' Time at the Book Fair

By Melanie Callahan, Librarian at Shepherd Junior High School in Mesa, AZ

Melanie Callahan This past fall, librarian Melanie Callahan and her Student Crew created a WILD Book Fair, complete with a jungle of books, a grass hut, safari gear, book commercials, and more to “lure” and “capture” the interest of students, faculty, and parents. As a result of their efforts, the Crew won a finalist prize in the Book Fairs National Student Crew contest.

Our Book Fair was held the second week of school during my first year as a new librarian. I had just started my job and knew I was going to need help, so I enlisted the help of a Student Crew, and have used one ever since. It’s so much more fun when students get involved.

This fall, my amazing Crew of 21 student volunteers came up with some very cool contest ideas that generated a lot of excitement among their fellow students.

One of the clever ideas was a "lucky locker day," where Crew Members randomly inserted a special "free book" slip in lockers. Students couldn't wait to check their locker to see if they had a slip. It created a lot of excitement.

We also worked together to host a "first lines" contest, where a Student Crew member would read the opening line of a book during the morning announcements - for example, "The sky was the color of Cat vomit" - and students who identified the book would be entered into a contest to receive a free copy of that book or another book of equal value. I tried to pick lines that would get the students' attention.

We also passed out blank paper T-shirts and invited students to use them to design an advertisement for a book they really liked and wanted to recommend or to design an advertisement for the Book Fair publicizing time, dates, etc. We then displayed the designs throughout the school and asked students to vote for their favorites. We gave the winners a free book from the Fair.

The Crew's enthusiasm was infectious. They took photos of themselves dressed in safari gear or reading a book next to a giant stuffed lion, and used them to make posters that they hung on the school walls. The posters made the Fair look fun and exciting and inspired others to attend the Book Fair to see what else was happening.

My Student Crews are always very creative. For our spring Book Fair, they decided to create a Wizard of Oz-themed Fair that urged students to "follow the yellow BOOK road" because “There’s no place like the Book Fair!” It's important to give kids the freedom to brainstorm their own ideas, because then they take ownership of the Fair. They'll tell their friends to come see what they've done, and there's much more enthusiasm.

The only thing I would do differently next time is to use time cards to more closely track the time Student Crewmembers spend volunteering at the Fair. We had daily schedules, but with time cards it would have been much easier to recognize the total volunteer hours each Crew member contributed, which is particularly helpful for students enrolled in service learning.

Our Crew was made up of a very diverse groups of students - ranging from Book Club members to Student Council representatives. It was awesome. I wouldn't host a Book Fair without the help of my Student Crew. They are the key to its success.
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