Two Schools Up the Ante with Winning Takes on Themes

A Texas elementary school and a four-time-winning Georgia middle school took first prize for their original themes at their fall Book Fairs, earning each school 2,000 in Scholastic Dollars™ and an author visit.

Book Fair Chairperson Lynda Bishop collaborated with Co-Chair Vickie Thiel to create an “All-Star Sports” theme at Jo Ann Ford Elementary School in Georgetown, Texas, earning them first prize in the 2012 Scholastic Book Fairs® National Elementary School Contest. Lynda, with 23 Fairs under her belt and a second-place win in 2011, says simply, “We upped the ante a little bit. We have competitive spirits.”

Meanwhile, Book Fair Chairperson Rhonda Boggs of Sammy McClure Middle School in Dallas, Ga., jokes that someone may put a contract on her for winning the Scholastic Book Fairs® National Middle School Student Crew Contest for a fourth time. Rhonda also has five second-place titles to her name. Her winning theme for 2012 was “iFair: There’s a Book for That,” which used smartphone apps to promote excitement about reading. “The student-friendly theme, popular contests, and amazing decorations made this one of Sammy McClure’s most creative Fairs yet,” Rhonda says.

Lynda’s school will receive an author visit May 20 from Captain Underpants™ author and illustrator Dav Pilkey. “The kids are asking every day, ‘When is he going to be here?” Lynda laughs. To prepare, students will participate in an at-home reading program in which they will read 60 to 80 minutes a night. Then student names will be entered in a drawing through which one student from each grade will be chosen to have lunch with Dav and his wife.

Tom Angleberger, author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, visited Sammy McClure Middle School on May 1. District officials attended a celebration assembly that featured the school band, cheerleaders, and a catered lunch. Rhonda credits the supportiveness of administrators, particularly the three principals under whom she has served. “They’ve all been willing to participate because all of them want to increase excitement at our school to promote reading,” she says.

Find Inspiration for Your Best Book Fair Ever

Lynda and Rhonda – while drawing inspiration from the Chairperson’s Toolkit – thought outside the box in coming up with their original themes. Here are some of their best practices that can inspire you to make your fall Fair your best one yet.

  • Make it a team effort. Lynda, the school’s librarian, needed the support of her parent volunteers, led up by co-chair Vickie. And year after year Rhonda – a media specialist – takes applications for Student Crew members from among her incoming seventh- and eighth-graders. Crew members choose the theme and develop activities.

  • Brainstorm with your team to come up with great ideas. “When we were in the initial planning stages, we went through every single one of the activities in the Chairperson’s Toolkit and brainstormed about what activities would support our theme,” Lynda shares. Rhonda gives her Crew members a long creative leash. “We always choose something our students can relate to and that we can do a lot with,” she says. “I let my Crew members be as creative as they want to be and let them do as much as they want to.”

  • Plan a Teacher Sneak Peek. At Rhonda’s Teacher Sneak Peek, teachers devoured Instagram cake, Angry Pigs in a blanket, and Pandora punch. Lynda’s team held a teacher’s tailgate party that was a prequel to their All-Star Tailgate Party family event.

  • Build student excitement. Lynda and Vickie inspired students to read 100,000 minutes by getting everybody – faculty, alumni, and school staff – on board. Classrooms competed for a traveling trophy as students begged and even bribed adults to donate their reading minutes to their classroom. Once the school reached its goal with sales of nearly $20,000, the trophy landed permanently in the winning classroom, and the school coach got doused with a cooler of cold water in a Wrap It Up and Read Rally. Sammy McClure students participated in such dress-up days as Angry Birds Day, Create Your Own App Shirt Day, and Ninja Day. When the sales goal of $7,000 was met, the principal dressed as a Fruit Ninja and distributed fruit to students in the cafeteria. Also, the classroom that bought the most books at the Fair won a highly coveted prize: 30 minutes of computer game time.

  • Promote family engagement. A QR Code Scavenger Hunt helped Rhonda build Book Fair traffic, and parents and grandparents turned out for their Books with Friends event at which gently used books were collected for the local library and doughnuts were passed out to family members. Students who donated books were entered into a texting contest in which the faster texter won an iTunes® gift card. Lynda and Vickie held an All-Star Tailgate Party that featured games, food, and a dodgeball tournament. They tantalized students with a sports cooler filled with Volkswagen erasers, telling them to come see how many balls Vickie could stuff into her Volkswagen at the event. They also held a Saturday grandparents event that featured crafts, opportunities to read together, and book shopping. Because the food was donated by the local Costco, all proceeds were used for All for Books™.

Want more tips for a great Book Fair? Read more about Jo Ann Ford Elementary’s winning Fair and the second-place winners here, and read more about Sammy McClure and the other winning middle schools here.
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