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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Book Fairs

Look at this photo and you will see the reason why I hold a Scholastic Book Fair each year. See these three  Book Fairsladies? They are the Scholastic rep’s who visit fairs in middle Tennessee to help set up and ensure you have everything to be a success. I took this photo late one night during the TASL conference. They were on their way to the first showing of Twilight. Hmm? Hip, with-it book people?!

Angela Schaadt, the one on the left not wearing a Twilight shirt, is my local Scholastic rep who came to help set up the fair, personally drove to the warehouse to obtain additional titles, delivered them the next day, taught the Crew how to merchandise and how to inventory, and followed up again later in the week to be sure we were doing well. Angela knew her best-sellers and she quickly developed a relationship with the Student Crew. The students looked forward to her returning so they could learn more and hopefully unpack other goodies. When I told the students I had placed a re-order for drumstick pencils and we’d just have to wait and see if any came, they demanded that I try to reach Angela to find them. Smart students! They know that it’s not the stuff that determines success, but the people. If I didn’t have Angela to help, I don’t know that I could have made it through the week.

I did speak with Jim from the Georgia office twice during the fair, but it wasn’t the same experience. I had laryngitis so even talking on the phone wasn’t pleasant. I had to simply tell Jim that Angela was there and taking care of everything. Since I couldn’t speak to be heard, I just needed to deal with her in person and let HER talk to Jim. 

During the TASL conference, I decided to "needle" Les about Scholastic’s delivery charge and about my students predicting that the book fair this year would simply have too many expensive books. Les started dashing all over the display to show me the bargains hidden in the fair. I did hold my own and insisted that Scholastic needs to drop the delivery charge concept. I look forward to continuing to needle Les via email on behalf of librarians all over the country. Les insists that there is no other company out there that does "Teen Fiction" as well as Scholastic. Readers, do you agree?

"Book Fair Week" means something at my house. The kids know. My neighbors know. Even the local businesses know. My family has learned they’ll be lucky to see me during the book fair. If they come within my reach, I’ll snatch them up and drag them to school to help, so my children mysteriously find places they need to be. My parents know I won’t call them that week, and my friends know I’m living at school so don’t invite me out.

For some ridiculous reason I have planned my book fair during November/December for the past 11 years which is when allergies kick in the worst; consequently, I’m ill by the end of every book fair week. This year was no exception so I apologize for not blogging as much as I should have. I did spend the entire week with laryngitis and more bowls of chicken soup than any one person should ever imbibe. 

How does a middle school book fair compare to an elementary fair? Hmmm?! I don’t know if this year is a good example of a middle school fair as far as the amount sold. My goal was to sell 1,000 books. We tried to keep count with tickets, and the final total was around 400 for a population of 882 students. 

The economy is terrible right now and my student parental population is right at the level of immediate impact. If you are reading between the lines, you’ll know that means that I felt we could have sold far MORE books than we did. Are my expectations too high? My reps tell me that we did okay. I’ll calculate the final totals Monday morning, but honestly if every single student didn’t walk out with a book, then I wasn’t happy. The problem is my expectation not reality. 

We realized by the end of the week that everyone wanted to participate and to "buy something" even if it wasn’t a book. We sold a huge number of floppy twisty pencils for 99 cents and erasers/bookmarks/pencils for 45 cents. A teacher pointed out that every student wanted to be able to show that they had bought something from the book fair. So, the next time someone pompously says something like, "I never put out all the little junk stuff," I’m gonna have to get in their face and accuse them of depriving the students the opportunity to participate.

We had an extremely enthusiastic student body. The student crew was very helpful and had to be driven out of the library to attend at least one class a day. Middle schoolers seem to be very persuasive in gaining permission from nearly every class period’s teacher to "go to the library to help with the book fair." I emailed teachers schedules daily, still extra children emerged to "help." Do you think it was the fabulous black top hats and feather boas we had for workers to wear? 

Our theme was "Watch the stars come out and read." We had a red carpet outside and inside the main door, stars in the doorway, lights spinning and dancing, and lots of stars over head, but the students knew they were the main attraction.

Since I had no voice, the students truly were in charge. They were able to use the microphone and surround sound system to make announcements, describe specials, and even remind rowdy rascals to "quiet down." I don’t think I maintained total control because frequently I’d be looking around trying to figure out WHO had the mic at that moment and was making the "quiet down" request every 30 seconds. The students wanted the library even quieter than I do. 

Remember the phrase: Sometimes it’s easier to just do things yourself. Have you ever known me to take the easy way out? Hah! I insisted this book fair would be a student run event and that’s what it was. I provided some tools and decorations like the disco ball (as they requested). They had to do the work. If attitude towards reading, book possessing, and selling were graded, the students received all A’s this week. 

Students worked hard. They learned how to provide assistance to parents, to be security, to merchandise materials to appeal to others, to provide customer service, to estimate tax, to advertise & promote (especially through sandwich boards they wore in the halls and cafeteria), to encourage teachers to come in, to give an impromptu band concert in the hall outside to lure people in, to meet & greet, to document through digital photography, to suggest additional titles, to get people involved actively in wishing for books and in guessing candies, to cross-reference award lists with Scholastic titles, and to close out sales with positive experiences. Managing the huge number of students kept me jumping, but the experience they had at the book fair made this a wonderful event. This is something they will always remember.

In years past at my elementary school we have been able to consistently sell LOTS of books to students, their parents, and the teachers. The teacher sales accounted for a dramatic portion of our book fair each year. I will admit to being disappointed with my middle school teachers. Only half participated in the Classroom Wishlists, fair finale with treats to eat, and visiting to make purchases for their classrooms and advisory periods. Am I out of line suggesting that elementary teachers participate more in book fairs?

Did I like the books on the fair? Yes, I do believe Scholastic has a wide variety of books and a very good selection of anime/manga that we requested. They had many award books and books that I couldn’t wait to sit down to read. Sometimes I feel like I’m so out of the loop when I find so many books that I’ve never heard of, but that look great. Know the feeling? It must mean that someone is doing their job. 

Guess I’d better go in Monday and book next year’s book fair. I think I’ll try to set it for "no allergies week."

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    I am here in Georgia and our inside rep at Scholastic – Tami Brown is THE BEST – if you – if you ever have to deal with the GA office again, ask for her.
    Bookfair week is NOT my favorite, but I have had good luck using Scholastic – I have used other bookfair companies and they just do not compare.

  2. Kathy says:

    I am here in Georgia and our inside rep at Scholastic – Tami Brown is THE BEST – if you – if you ever have to deal with the GA office again, ask for her.
    Bookfair week is NOT my favorite, but I have had good luck using Scholastic – I have used other bookfair companies and they just do not compare.

  3. Billy Dixon says:

    If you are looking for an alternative to Scholastic in Middle or East Tennessee, as most schools are these days, you should consider Backyard Book Fair (backyardbookfair.com). They currently run fairs in most of Knoxville all the way into SW Virginia. They work the fair all week from start to finish, have all the big name titles, offer discounts on almost everything and beat the competition in sales numbers more than 90% of the time. Check out the references on the Web site.