Integrating Scholastic’s Online Features for Your
Best Fair Yet!

By Sarah Svarda, librarian, Discovery School, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Every year, I try to challenge myself to try something different with our Book Fair. Similar to lesson planning, I feel trying new things requires you to stay on your toes and push yourself to make your Fair ever better. This spring, I challenged myself to host more of our Fair online. In this article, I share what worked for us and some strategies I’d like to try next year.

Scholastic Homepage

The Scholastic Homepage is a great way to advertise your family events, recruit volunteers, show customers your Book Fair goal, promote specific Scholastic programs that will be available at your Fair, and offer online shopping. The homepage, found in the Chairperson’s Toolkit, is already set up for you and easy to edit. I show all of our students how to access the homepage when they visit the library to preview the advertised Scholastic titles. The link to the homepage is included in all of our communications to parents.

Online Teacher Wish List

This year, I decided we’d try our Teacher Wish Lists online! This was a big feat because in the past, our teachers would each create an exciting wish list box, and then fill it with books they wanted from the Fair. I decided to try the Online Wish Lists mainly because I wanted to keep all of our stock on the bookshelves at the Fair. It was so easy showing our teachers how to create their Online Wish Lists! I emailed each teacher the Classroom Wish List instructions, which are provided in the Chairperson’s Toolkit. (The instructions are in your Fair Files folder. From the Advertise and Promote dropdown menu, select Promote to Teachers and choose Flyers/Posters/Signs.) I also demonstrated how to set up an Online Wish List for all of our teachers during our faculty meeting. We had 100 percent teacher participation in the Online Wish List program this year, even from our special-area teachers. I also taught students how to find their teacher’s Wish List online using our library computers. Because we replaced the teacher wish boxes with the Online Wish List this year, we needed to advertise our online option in a special way at the Fair. For the Story Laboratory Book Fair theme, we used PVC pipe and king-sized sheets to build a “Parent/Student Wish List Laboratory,” where only parents and students were allowed entry! The kids thought it was a hoot that teachers were not permitted in the parent/student lab. We kept five laptops, tables, and chairs set up in this area at all times with the Scholastic homepage bookmarked on each computer. We created signage that reminded parents to visit the parent/student laboratory and hung it near the cash registers and in other places at the Fair. We assigned one of our parent volunteers to help families and friends navigate to the online Teacher Wish Lists and assist them with their book purchases for their teachers. A really great feature of the Online Fair is that it lets shoppers include a personal note to the teacher with their Wish List purchase. All of the Online Wish List purchases are shipped to the school for free immediately at the end of the Online Fair, which is usually a week or two after the in-school event concludes. Each order is bagged and labeled according to classroom teacher, making it easy to deliver and distribute. It’s exciting for teachers to receive even more books from their students after the Fair is over!

Involving Family and Friends

As I shared earlier, I teach all of my students how to access our Scholastic homepage during a scheduled lesson time in the library. I also model for my students how to create an Online Wish List for themselves, which they can easily email to family and friends who may not be able to visit the in-school Fair. In addition, more titles – such as complete series sets – are available at the Online Fair than at the in-school event. I create a Wish List at home with my girls and share it with my students as an example. My girls choose two books each, and then email their wish list to our family members who live in Indiana. Even though they aren’t able to visit our Fair in person (because they live five hours away), they still love to support anything that has to do with reading and literacy for my girls. They are always happy to buy a few books for them, and the books are delivered right to our school after the Fair is over. Plus, the Online Fair is available before and after the in-school Fair, so students and their families have an extended opportunity to shop online and make any final purchases after the in-school Fair is over.

Thanking Volunteers

One brand-new online feature that I used and loved this year is the option to invite your volunteers to shop the School Resource Catalog online. It is so important to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them. I always gift some of my Scholastic Dollars to my Book Fair planning team members as a thank you for their dedication and hard work. From your Chairperson’s Toolkit, you simply enter your volunteers’ email addresses, and with just a couple of clicks, you can invite them to choose a few books from the online Catalog. You’ll receive a confirmation email each time one of your volunteers creates a list of items she wants. And you can rest easy because your Scholastic account information is not visible; volunteers can’t see how many Scholastic Dollars you have to spend.

Looking Ahead …

Next year, I’d like to create QR codes that link directly to the online shopping site for our Fair. The codes can be included on any materials we send home with students about the Fair. We will also be displaying the QR codes at our in-school Fair to let parents know they can still buy books that may be out of stock or after the in-school Fair ends.

Sarah Svarda works as the head librarian at Discovery School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., a winner in 2012 of the National Blue Ribbon Award. She has five years of classroom experience as a third-grade teacher and served nine years as a media specialist. She earned her undergraduate degree in multidisciplinary studies (grades 1 to 8) and master’s degree in instructional leadership, both from Tennessee Technological University. An accomplished Book Fair chairperson, Sarah was named the National Scholastic Book Fairs® Elementary School Contest first-place winner in 2006 (Read, White and Blue), 2007 (Reading Rain Forest) and 2010 (Book Fair Diner). She also was a second-place winner in 2008 (Book Fair Safari). Sarah shares her professional insight about reading, writing, and her favorite children’s books on her blog, libraryeverything.blogspot.com.
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