​Take a Guess: How Many Books are in Our Library?

By Karen Smith, Book Fair Chairperson at William Henry Burkhart Elementary School in Indianapolis, IN
How many books?This year our school had a second book fair, a BOGO book fair. We had not hosted a BOGO for about 9 years. To help bring energy to the book fair, I thought it would be fun to have a contest to give some books away.
The idea behind the contest really began with the students..."Mrs. Smith, how many books are in the library?" was a frequent question asked. We would have discussions with each class regarding how each book in the library has its one special spot or home. The goal was to encourage them to use their shelf markers and to learn about organization.
We would talk about how hard it can be to find one lost book in the library because we had so many books. We also talked about how the number of books can change daily with the purchase of new books (i.e. from the book fair) or getting rid of damaged/worn out books..."Mrs. Smith, how many are there?" I would just answer thousands.
So the estimating contest was born.
Each class/student was given contest tickets to fill out with their name, homeroom #, and a guess. I also provided a flyer to the teachers that they could show on their SmartBoard/projector with information on the contest and a couple of hints. A bulletin board was put up with the question: 'How many books are in our school library?' with a blank answer space after the question. Once the winners were announced, the answer was placed on the bulletin board.
Originally the prize was only going to be given to the student and the teacher with the closest guess. However, as the weeks leading up to the fair and contest passed by, more and more students and teachers were coming in to the library just to estimate books on the shelves and count shelves. Teachers brought whole classrooms in at a time and gave the students about 10 minutes to do their estimating. I was amazed at the response from the whole school. Watching them put their math skills with adding, multiplying and estimating was fantastic!
With so much involvement and input from the students and teachers I went to the Assistant Principal and he verified that I could give out more prizes....BOOKS!!! The assistant principal agreed with the plan so we ended up giving a 2nd place prize of 1 book to one student in each grade level. They were able to come to the BOGO book fair and pick out their book of choice (we limited the prize of each book to around $15). For the grand prize, the student and teacher with the best guess came to the BOGO book fair and picked out $40 to $50 worth of books of their choice. All books were paid for with Scholastic Dollars.
The student grand prize winner was only 18 books away from the actual total. As a side note, we ended up giving a 2nd place prize to a teacher as well. The first place teacher guessed with 29 books off the correct number. We had another teacher guess within 34 books. I just couldn't let the teacher slip by without a prize too :)
We will probably run this contest about every 2 years. In the meantime I am working on the next whole school book fair contest ideas for next year...