Make Your Fair Family-Friendly with Multiple Events

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

We all know the more shoppers who come to your Fair, the better. Alas, it’s not always possible for all your moms, dads, grandparents, and friends to attend your Book Fair at the same time during the week. By planning a variety of events during the week, you can maximize Book Fair shopping hours and give everyone – students, teachers, families, and friends – an opportunity to participate. Here are some tried-and-true strategies to help you boost participation and make your next Book Fair even more successful!

1. Plan your Family Events first. One of the first things we plan is Family Events. I like to alternate morning and evening Book Fair events. For example, we have morning events planned for Monday and Wednesday and evening events scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. Staggering your schedule will give you time to rest and rejuvenate between events.

2. Thank your teachers. This year we started our Book Fair with a breakfast for our teachers. I made sure to thank the teachers in advance because although Book Fair week is an exciting time, it’s also a time when your teachers must be very flexible. Ask your PTA to provide a breakfast for your teachers or have volunteers bring breakfast finger foods on the first day of your Fair. If possible, set up the breakfast in the same room as your Book Fair. Encourage your teachers to sign up for drawings for free books, and let them create their wish lists after they’ve enjoyed their breakfast! This will help you kick things off on a positive note with your faculty.

3. Organize for ease. For the first time this year, I set up a Readioactive Breakfast Bar, a designated table where we hosted special breakfasts for moms and grandparents all week long. You can find great decorating ideas for the fall Reading Oasis theme here. A PTA parent who is in charge of hospitality set up the table the night before each morning event. Because we had everything set up the night before, all I had to do at 7 in the morning was plug in the coffee maker! We also had parent volunteers sign up to bring in items for the breakfasts via an online volunteer scheduling site. This is a super-easy way to let parent volunteers bring items for your special events!

4. Collaborate with your community. Every year we collaborate with a local coffee shop here in Murfreesboro during our Book Fair. This year, our coffee shop brought hot cocoa for our hot cocoa reading event. You can create a great morning event by joining forces with your local coffee shop or smoothie store. Many local shops would love to provide some of their delicious drinks to serve to your patrons. Your shoppers will be excited to receive a special treat, you don’t have to cook and serve, and you’ve created a nice partnership with a local business!

5. Don’t forget lunch. Every year we try to combat a potential midday lull by inviting parents, grandparents, and family friends to have lunch with students in the school cafeteria and then shop at the Book Fair. We set up the tables in the gym for the meal, the students eat with their families and friends on their designated day, and then they browse the Book Fair together. We have a great turnout every year, which means less down time during the day. We check in advance with the cafeteria manager for permission, to confirm the dates, and to get a copy of the menu for the Book Fair week. We also give the cafeteria a catchy new name for the week. For example, Cactus Café would be a fun name for the Reading Oasis Book Fair this fall. We also rename all of the food on the menu that week to mesh with the Book Fair theme. Be sure to send out reservation forms in advance so your cafeteria manager can plan according to the number of guests to be served that week.

6. Consider Saturday. The past few years I’ve opened our Book Fair for a Saturday morning Family Event, which has become another popular way for families to experience our Book Fair. In fact, participation at our Saturday events has grown every year. Now it’s the event that everyone looks forward to attending. For our Readioactive Book Fair this year, we hosted a Saturday event and called it Super Science Saturday. Saturday is a good day to encourage more community involvement too. We made community connections with our local science center, wilderness station, college professors, and recent graduates. Our local Boy Scout troop volunteered to cook, serve, and help sell our lunch items and snacks for $1 each. Every family who attended our Saturday event received a map of the building and chose one of several different science sessions to attend together. Between sessions, families were encouraged to stop by the gym to shop at the Book Fair.

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 Scholastic Book Fairs® National 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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