To those of you who noticed that I didn’t get this one out on a Monday – sorry, and thanks for being such dedicated readers that you miss me when I’m off schedule! To those of you who didn’t notice…forget I said anything. I won’t bore you with the homework woes and over-tired kids that took gold in the competition for my time last night!
Whiny, irrational people in pajamas aside, yesterday was a really fun day for me. For the 2nd year in a row, I volunteered at our elementary school’s Scholastic Book Fair. It was eye-opening in whole new ways now that I am both blogging on literacy issues and working to get published in the world of kid-lit.
Last year, I thought my role was to help kids add up book prices and try not to let them spend all their money on novelty erasers. This year, I was able to talk with kids about their favorite books and characters, make recommendations, and learn from the true connoisseurs just what kind of story makes kids put down a pink pop-eye fish pen and pick up a book instead.
One of the greatest things about this year’s book fair was the introduction of book trailers to the mix. Scholastic’s pre-fair brochure allowed parents to link to video trailers of many of the books. The book fair displays also came with scan-able codes for many books that could be accessed with a smartphone. Now, our elementary kids don’t have phones (or if they do, they can’t use them at school) – so the codes weren’t very useful to us at the fair itself. I’ll bet they could be used to great benefit at the middle school and high school levels, though. What was great was that the school librarian showed the classes some of the trailers a week ahead – so they came in ready to buy the books that had grabbed their attention.
Thanks in no small part to the great book trailer, our fair sold out of MouseHeart by Lisa Fiedler in the first 2 hours. 5th and 6th graders were scooping this one up!
Also incredibly popular with the 5th and 6th grade crowd were:
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown
- Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
- Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown
- Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez.
The 3rd and 4th graders were by far the most indecisive. They juggled stacks of books, traded one for another, added and subtracted and asked for help calculating what they could afford dozens of times. As you might imagine, this group was a little more swayed by cover art, “extras” wrapped in with the books, and familiar series/characters. Books with twists on fairy tales and books about disasters were big hits with kids in this age group.
Almost all the 3rd and 4th graders wished their parents had given them enough money for one of the BIG sets of books. I loved seeing kids getting excited at the idea of buying 7 Rainbow Fairy books, 20 Magic Treehouse books, or all of the Puppy Palace titles. Though the $15-$50 sets are incredible bargains, none of these kids came with the resources to buy them. Luckily, our librarian provided them with “wishlist” papers they could take home to their parents. I’m envisioning some very book-filled holidays ahead!
The most fun at the book fair, for me, is the time spent with the K-2nd grade classes. These kids are absolutely thrilled to be spending “their own” money, are willing to chat with volunteers and librarians about their likes and dislikes, and are dying to read their books right away.
I was amazed at how many of them gravitated to the new just-gross-enough picture book Bugs In My Hair – the lice-tastic book written and illustrated by David Shannon. Perhaps the book trailer for that one got them itching to buy it.
Also big with the littles were popular characters like
- Pete the Cat
- Fly Guy
These kids were also really excited about the numerous non-fiction titles with plenty of photos of everything from exotic animals to famous sports figures. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping for the small children in your life – they really love to learn about the world around them!
My final thoughts for parents:
- Volunteer at YOUR book fair to help build children’s love of reading
- Make sure to teach your kids where to look on a book for pricing – and how to round UP from $3.99. It’ll save us your cashier a lot of sad faces and shouts of “But it says three!” Practice adding up their purchases.
- Mark your envelopes clearly with the amount your child is allowed to spend on non-book items. It is HARD to convince them that they don’t need a highlighter that smells like fruit.
- Watch book trailers and check out the flier so your child goes in prepared – but be happy if they change their minds. Choosing books that they want to read is such a big part of loving reading!
- FOR THE LOVE OF PETE (the cat), DON”T send in a blank check with no instructions!!!! Unless, of course, you are okay with your 4th grader bringing home $100 worth of Minecraft handbooks and a poster of a puppy.
- No book fair at your school? See if you can get one started – or make your own by watching videos, browsing book covers, and setting your child loose with a budget.
I’d love to hear from all of you about your Book Fair experiences. As always: