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Imagination and Collaboration:
Key Ingredients as You Look Toward Your Fall Fair

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

The 2013Ė2014 school year will begin before we know it! If you plan to host a fall Book Fair, the earlier you start planning, the more successful your Fair will be. Below I share three easy ways you can begin preparing for an amazing Scholastic Reading Oasis Book Fair!

1. Get Inspired. As soon as I know the theme for the fall Book Fair, I brainstorm. I do this by myself when Iím feeling creative. Think about everything you can that relates to the theme. No idea is too big! I usually type up this list to keep as a reference to share with my Book Fair committee at our opening meeting. Itís a great way to have some ideas and talking points already brewing when you get started with your planning team.

Another great way to brainstorm is using Pinterest. I already started a board for the fall theme and have included notes to remind myself why I chose each pin. Check out my board for some instant ideas! And stay tuned: I will add more pins as I think of ways to incorporate Scholasticís advertised titles into your classroom lessons before the Fair.

Scholastic also has plenty of free resources to help with your pre-planning, such as the Chairpersonís Toolkit, which includes ready-made forms, letters, and decorations that will save you some time, especially as you start to put together more specific plans for your Book Fair. Some reproducibles for the fall theme are available now, and many more will be added over the summer months. Check your Toolkit periodically to see whatís new. (To access, choose the Fair Files tab and then click on the Themes and Decorations tab.)

The Ideas Guidebook is one of my favorite resources. Itís packed with helpful tips and ideas to help with your Fair planning. And best of all, the Guidebook is now available online so you can easily share it with your committee ahead of time.

Finally, youíll be sure to sign up for your nearest Book Fair Workshop. My all-time-favorite Scholastic representative, Annie Newall, hosts our local workshop, where she talks about the new books that will be on our Fair (canít wait!), shares success stories from other Fairs in our area, and gets everyone pumped about the seasonal theme. Itís a great way to glean ideas from fellow Book Fair organizers.

2. Think Connections. The second step involves branching out beyond your school walls. I think of every possible community connection that I can tie in with the Book Fair theme. Again, no idea is too big. Create a list for now, and then narrow it down when you meet with your Book Fair committee. Here are some of the possible community connections I brainstormed for the Scholastic Reading Oasis Book Fair:

  • Local museums for artifacts and displays
  • Local colleges or universities for speakers and experts
  • An Italian ice truck
  • Local zoo for desert animals (A camel would be awesome!)
  • Local parks and recreation departments (We have a Wilderness Station that could bring out desert animals.)
  • A National Guard rock-climbing wall
  • A local military base for speakers who can talk about survival in the desert
  • Local masseuses who can give back rubs or facials for mother-daughter Egyptian spa night (as shown on my Pinterest board)
  • Local movie theaters that can give away free tickets for a drawing at your "Dad's Drive-In" night event in your school cafeteria (You could show the movie Aladdin!)
  • Local theaters or costume shops for costumes or props
  • Local garden centers to donate desert plants, help build terrariums for a family event, or to share how plants in desert areas adapt to survive in dry climates
  • Local home improvement stores to donate sand
  • Egyptian families from your school who can share their cultural heritage as guest speakers
  • Local artists who can demonstrate sand art with students
  • Local auctioneers who can donate their time and expertise auctioning off classroom-created baskets for an All for Booksô auction

When thinking about community partners, consider locally owned businesses. Our school has partnered with our local coffee shop for three years now. Locally owned businesses can make decisions easily about donating. Sometimes, chain stores require a lot of paperwork before making a commitment. And donít forget about the small stuff: Our local paint stores are willing to donate paint, our local paper company provides huge cardboard sheets for backdrops and signage, and a local diner donated a vintage booth for a '50s theme! Donít be afraid to ask community members for support. Remember that your enthusiasm about your Book Fair will be contagious! Your community members will want to be a part of that excitement, and they will be supporting your school at the same time.

3. Collaborate. Collaboration is the No. 1 way to guarantee a successful Book Fair. You cannot plan your Book Fair by yourself! When preparing for this article, I called three of my favorite people: my music teacher and two of my parents who have been a part of our Book Fair committee forever. Their children arenít even in our school anymore, but they still come back to help with our Book Fair. All I had to do was tell my friends about the fall 2013 Book Fair theme. One of them, Julie Seymour, immediately started pinning ideas on her Pinterest board, and our music teacher had tons of great ideas for community collaborations. When I called each of them, I shared the ideas I had so far. Then I let them simmer. They each called back or e-mailed within the next few days with unique ideas to share. We also interview our sixth-grade Student Crew and tell them about the theme. During the interview, they share as many ideas as they can think of that pertain to the theme. Some of our very best Book Fair plans come from our students!

I hope you try one or even all of these strategies when planning for your fall 2013 Book Fair. Remember, all you need is a little inspiration, a few connections, and some collaboration to have one of your best Book Fairs yet!

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 masterís degree in instructional leadership, both from Tennessee Technological University. An accomplished Book Fair chairperson, Sarah was named the Scholastic Book Fairsģ 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 childrenís books on her blog.
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