Five Ways to Run an Awesome Book Fair

Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Lucas Maxwell has been working in school libraries in the UK for the past five years. He is a writer at Book Riot and in 2017 was named UK School Librarian of the Year. Currently Librarian at Glenthorne High School, he can also be found on Twitter @lucasjmaxwell or blogging on the Glenthorne High School Library blog.

Here at Glenthorne High School we recently held our annual Scholastic Book Fair and it was a huge success. Here are five ways to make your book fair a hit.

1. Promote

This might seem like an obvious one but it is crucial to having a successful event. It can be tempting to simply send off the pre-generated letter to parents. You’ve got to do a lot more than that. Go to whole school assemblies. Go to year group assemblies. Visit classrooms, put it in your school newsletter. Speak about it at staff meetings. Have student library assistants post ads up in the restrooms. Have it rotating around on school tv monitors if you have them. Speak to students in classes and library lessons. It will all pay off!

A busy Book Fair at Glenthorne

2. Turn it into a competition

This will really get the students fired up. We are lucky to have a built-in House system so all of the students belong to four different houses. Our system this year was to give each House one day of the week when our book fair was on. They could create a House team through a sign up process and their job was to sell as many books as they could. Knowing that they were up against the other Houses set the stage for a great week of fierce selling. 

A busy Book Fair at Glenthorne

3. Prepare the students for selling

This was a fun one. In a stealthy move, I trained the students to be powerful book sellers without them really knowing it. How did I do this? Through a game I like to call “A Book a Minute!” In the weeks leading up to the Book Fair, all students in Years 7 and 8 (ages 11-12) played A Book A Minute in their library lesson.

The rules are simple. I ask the students to imagine that they have just finished an amazing book and they want to make their best friend read it as well. I ask them to think of the things that they need to talk about in order to make their friend interested in the book. The catch is that they only have 1 minute to do this. We discuss things like characters, setting, plot (no spoilers!) and similar books. Then, when it comes time for the book fair, I’ve got a set of trained students on the floor pitching books like experts. 

Taking the challenge of hand-selling books at the Book Fair

4. Give students control

It can be tempting to try and take over or be the lead when you have a few years running a book fair. After this year I am more than happy to let the students take control. Through effective promotion, I was able to have older students ages 15 and up assist the students who were ages 11 and 12 but still wanted to take part. This was part of what Scholastic calls the #BookFairTakeOver and it was a huge success. Let the students pitch the books, organise the library the way they want and round up their school mates to come in and buy books. Again, it will all pay off in the end. 

A fantastic Book Fair Takeover team

5. Get staff involved

This goes somewhat hand in hand with step number one but can be an easy one to overlook. We are lucky because our House Leaders are all staff members and I was constantly keeping them up to date on the competition and getting them involved. Sending out invites to other staff and speaking out in staff briefing or other meetings is another great way to get staff in the library to take part. It’s a lot of fun to see the students pitching the books to staff members and it introduces the library to new faces. 

A busy Book Fair at Glenthrone

Using these methods we were able to break last year’s record by selling £821.65 worth of books in 5 days. Considering that all books were being sold at half price, I couldn’t be more proud of our students for their dedication and hard work. Congratulations to them. I am keeping the House winner secret until next week but the winning team will be revealed soon!

This blog was originally posted on the Glenthorne High School blog and has been reproduced here with permission from the author.

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