Achieve 100% Student Participation at Your Next Fair

By Cyndy Dunning, Book Fair Chairperson and Library Media Specialist at Mt. Carmel Elementary in Huntsville, AL
 
All for BooksScholastic’s All for Books program framework provides a wonderful concept of community giving that has enabled all of our students to participate in our book fair celebration of reading. It has taken several years to make our All for Books program uniquely successful, so I am happy to share my time-worn insights with you to help boost your success.
 
My most successful All for Books change drive was fall of 2016. The actual All for Books work begins three weeks before the fair opens. Building excitement in a timely manner is key to maintaining momentum with students, staff and volunteers. An All for Books information letter and donation slips are distributed three school days before the actual drive begins, and the collection challenge runs Mon-Fri., the full week ahead of the scheduled book fair. As a result, we carefully work to ensure that 100% of students can participate at the fair the following week.
 
Building an expected tradition of spotlighting All for Books early in the fair calendar builds anticipation for the upcoming fair and helps advertise the opportunity to make a difference at our school, as well as for reading foundations that benefit from Scholastic’s match program. Our drive to have a successful All for Books is simple; it’s all for books, whether an individual child or a classroom library.
 
Tweaking the Basics
 
For my school, I create a personalized parent letter that explains the purpose of the change drive and also includes our class/grade level incentives for participating. The official kick-off for All for Books is signified when the theme donation can is delivered to the classroom (one can per classroom simplifies the event for teachers). Rolling out the information at targeted times helps to build excitement for the upcoming fair and creates a chance to challenge classes to compete for the cause. By scheduling the All for Books Class Challenge before the fair opens, I can send out book fair information / schedule half-way through the change drive to feed the excitement.
 
Much of the week before the book fair is spent focused on counting change and tallying totals. For the sake of accuracy, and to spare the sanity of my bookkeeper, I have given up on change counting machines. Although it takes a bit longer, counting by hand works best for us. In preparation for our drive, I order coin wrappers in bulk, online, by coin denomination. To share progress, daily totals are posted in the hall with a themed display, and emailed to teachers. Social media posts also report the daily classes in the lead and drive the excitement level up.
 
The most valuable lesson I've learned with All for Books is this: never have your coin drive the same week as your book fair. It takes away from time you can spend making your fair exceptional and it puts the children in a place where they have to decide if they want to donate that change for its true intention, or spend it on themselves.
 
To provide an additional opportunity to give, I place two donation boxes at the checkout. Each box features a school employee who students may or may not recognize. Students can vote with their change to pick between the two to see who will be the guest of honor for the class All for Books Class Party.
 
The best part of All for Books is giving away "door prizes" to students that could not shop the fair. By keeping track of shopper names on class lists, we have a visual of students who did not participate. The last two days of the fair we deliver door prizes and share the love of books with those students who otherwise would miss the thrill of selecting their own book.  
 
Tools I Use
 
I use the daily total tags from Scholastic’s Toolkit and the donation slips (bracelet reminders). My volunteers decorate cans I have purchased online. Having uniform-sized donation containers has been most helpful. These cans are uniform in size, have a plastic top lid and have a slit in the top to drop change through, and the cylinder shape is easy to decorate. Excel Spreadsheet is used to keep our accounting straight.
 
My Book Fair Journey
 
This is my 8th year as a librarian and I have enjoyed being the Book fair Chairperson for 16 book fairs. As Librarian/Chairperson, I have drawn on my extended history of organizing volunteers from my years as a Girl Scout Leader and Service Unit Manager. It is my goal to bring energy and excitement to all our students through reading and the love of books. I find that Scholastic Book Fairs helps make this dream a reality every time.