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Unorthodox Differentiation?

As an elementary librarian I am very interested in getting as many books into the hands of kids as I possibly can. Twice every year I offer book fairs. The Fall book fair is a regular “for profit” fair and the one in the Spring (the most popular one) is the “Buy One Get One Free” fair. My justifications in a standards-based world? Read on!

Besides the obvious standards dealing with promoting independent reading, book fairs have the potential to add validity to math skills. Money is always a tricky concept for younger students. During the book fair the students need to count their money, pay with the correct amounts, and then double-check their change. It is kind of fun to see the kids who have “robbed” their piggy banks coming in with baggies full of pennies, nickels, and dimes – not so much quarters, of course! It sometimes takes them a while, but they get guided practice in counting by ones, fives, and tens. The only “real world” application I will not tackle is tax. When I am trying to work with so many kids on counting money up to the cost of their items, I do not feel it is worth the frustration to add tax on top of that. The little four and five year olds do not have the experience yet to understand why their $5 bill is not enough to pay for that $5 book. Of course, the state needs their share so I pay the taxes for both fairs from the profits in the Fall. The Spring book fair is a “Buy One Get One Free” fair (no profit is received for this book fair because the profit goes to the kids in the free books). Now try that on for confusing kids! Besides counting their money as previously mentioned, now we add on top of that the fact that they MUST find something the same price or less to get free with their purchased item. You would be amazed at how many kids do not understand that concept. It is also EXTREMELY satisfying to watch kids pool their resources. Sometimes they don’t have enough money themselves to get the one book they want – they really want it and they don’t care if they get something else with it. I love their willingness to take this suggestion: find someone else with the same problem; combine your money together; you each get the one book you want and split the change. In essence, one book is still paid for and the other is still free.

Literature standards are addressed easily in a couple ways. One way is through the author DVD that the book fair company produces and sends. The DVD focuses on authors whose materials are in the book fair. The authors talk about their writing process, where they get their ideas, the illustrations, the publication process, and anything else that has to do with the entire process of writing and publishing a book. The kids are exposed to a generous variety of genre and their interests are piqued in what the authors say about their books.

The book fair company encourages us to sponsor other events during the book fair – especially evening family events. I have always had a “Family Night” and a “Sneak Peek” event. Our wonderful art teacher sponsors an event with me during the book fair. On my Family Night she holds a “Family Clay Night” where parents work with their kids on a craft project. It is a big draw for the library, the school, and the art department. A couple years ago I started participating in the “Wish List” program. I wasn’t convinced at first that I wanted to tackle the Wish Lists because we already ask so much of people in regard to financially supporting our causes. I am very glad that I started implementing this program because the kids take a lot of pride in selecting a book to donate to their classroom. The most books are donated during the Spring BOGO fair because the parents donate their free book to the classroom – very rewarding since they do not have to pay anything extra! Last year we held our first ever “Bingo for Books”. WOW!!! This new event brought in sooo many families that I was blown away! It was almost heart-stopping to see our parents having fun with their kids playing Bingo and winning books. Every kid was promised to leave with at least two free books and some won over ten! Everyone had a great time and they did not have to pay one cent to participate. Our elementary library club sponsored the event. I used book fair points to order cases of “bruised books” for prizes. These bruised books are always in 100% perfect condition. We provided bottled water and snacks and the bingo cards were donated by a local fire department. 100 books were donated by a local family literacy program and they also let us borrow their bingo ball machine. We had about ten teachers volunteer their evening to the event. We had so many families come that we had to divide the night into two sessions – and both were packed!

Our book fairs have earned my library (and our district) huge community support. It is extremely gratifying to see the number of books we are able to get into the hands of these kids, even in the economic strife we face today. Watching parents come in with their kids for the purpose of enjoying literature is an amazing thing to see.

QUESTION FOR COMMENTS: Even with the success of these events during the book fairs I am always looking for more ways to promote reading. Can you offer any other ideas for programs? What do your libraries do during book fair week?

~ by dwhiteman on . Tagged: , ,

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