A Week of Swashbuckling Leaves Students Wanting More

By Melissa McCorvy, Book Fair Chairperson at St. Mary Catholic School in Orange, TX
Book Fair Preview TreatsSt. Mary is a small school with 125 students between Pre-Kindergarten – 8th grade. I wanted to share some of the things that our students said they liked the most about our Bookaneer Book Fair this
past fall:

  • I always decorate the doors at the entrance to go along with the theme. This fall we transformed the entry to our library with a giant treasure map, door-sized pirates, and the circulation desk became a ship. The idea was that students would enter and be surrounded by sights and sounds (pirate music playing) of a real "swashbuckling" theme. The doors are always locked the day of decorating and students love to try and peek.
  • We held a Guess How Many Cannonballs contest, and the winner received an entire bucket of cheese balls. We had a new giveaway each morning. Students were given the opportunity to guess how many each time they made a purchase.
  • They loved the What’s Your Pirate Name poster from the Toolkit. It was blown up and put on the entry wall. We leave some of the best decorations up between fairs and this is one of them. Even after the fair, students still come back and stop to find their name almost daily. 
  • One of the maps on our entry wall has become “X” marks the spot on precepts’ wall. Middle school students are invited to find a quote from 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Brown’s Precepts by Palacio. 

Ways we generate excitement:
The theme is heavily guarded! I tell students to look for clues, but I will never say the theme out loud. This has already begun for the spring fair we will have in May. They try desperately to make me reveal. The theme clipart is always on notes that go home and on anything posted on our PTO page.
The week prior to fair, each class watches the author video and is given the opportunity to examine a selection of preview books. This starts a great conversation about which books they are most excited.
The Friday before fair opens is our setup and teacher preview. Teachers are invited to have a sneak peek at the books as well as enjoy some yummy themed snacks. Each teacher poses for a photo for our “Guess Who” contest.
We always kick off our fair on Monday morning with a pep rally or skit. For the Bookaneer fair, our drama club did a skit in which the pirate had stolen some of the most popular books from the book characters. I dressed as a pirate to go along with the theme.
To support our All for Books drive, we had Tattoo Tuesday. The tattoos were $.50 each. After morning assembly, students were called, by class, to go to the foyer to receive tattoos. I used the student crew to help with retrieving students and applying tattoos. Then on Wednesday, students could pay $1 to wear a themed clothing item (we wear uniforms).
We raised about $170 for All For Books. These monies were raised with the combination of tattoos, selling lollipops on the All For Books Giving Tree, and the Guess How Many box on the cashier table. This money purchased books for classroom libraries.
Wednesday is our family night with games and drawing about every 15 minutes. This year, we had a local group of kids called Science Superstars come and demonstrate some experiments related to the weather and treasures that pirates may encounter.
Thursday our teachers competed in a “Swab the Deck” game. Teachers had to push a balloon across the floor, then walk the plank, and toss rings onto hooks. The winner received one free morning duty. (Each teacher has duties that may consist of loading and unloading students in the car line since we do not have buses, or supervising students in the gym from 7-7:45 AM during drop off times.)
After assembly was our “Grand Treasure” event. Students invited grandparents to morning assembly and then to library for some special shopping time. This brought in over $600 in 1 hour.
My best advice is to be excited about the theme and the book selection. Kids can see if you are excited. Your enthusiasm will be contagious. Workshops, the toolkit and preview books are all ways to get to know your upcoming fair.