Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let There Be Books!

Our first ever Horizon Scholastic Book Fair was held February 9-14 here in the Media Center. On Monday, February 13, we moved the fair down to the gym lobby for the shopping convenience of our parents who attended Parent/Teacher conferences that evening. I'm happy to report that the event was a great success for us.

Why a book fair? Why now?

The real real question is, why not? As I've reported, we have avid readers here at Horizon. Given the economic situation in the district and the country, funding for new materials is challenging. A book fair is a great way to provide a service to our school community and earn free books for the library. Scholastic makes it easy to participate as well. In fact, Scholastic went above and beyond to work with us. Not only did they support our mission, to offer great books to our students, with fundraising as a secondary goal, they customized the books in the cases for our community. Our Scholastic team- Paige, Kristy and Rhonda, answered my questions, offered tips and advice and encouraged our efforts from start to finish.

Here's a brief look at the impact of the Book Fair-

Big Smiles- The typical response of students when they saw the Book Fair was one of elation. I heard some squeals, a few "Oh Boys!" and more than a handful of kids jumped up and down. Both girls and boys responded that way. Almost everyone reminisced about the book fairs they attended in grade school. Everyone has asked if it will be back next year. (Yes!)

Lookie-Loos- Foot traffic in the Media Center increased because of the Book Fair. I saw many first timers in the LMC, both as students and staff. One of our goals is to increase awareness that we are here. The Book Fair provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase what the LMC has to offer. The perception today is that kids don't read and libraries are an antiquated institutions. While I don't agree with that at all, I do believe it's part of my job to change that perception. The visibility the Book Fair brought to the LMC was invaluable.

Let's Talk About- Books, favorite authors and series oh my! The students loved lingering through the book cases and discussing all the titles. They would talk to me, their friends and other shoppers with enthusiasm.  One of the main reasons I wanted the fair was for this kind of free exchange with my student patrons. There are dozens of sites I can go on to research what teenagers want to read, but those are a poor substitute for a live book experience. I witnessed first hand the choices the kids made, which authors they sought first and whom they didn't. I took notes on genre trends (realistic fiction is a welcome respite from the intensity of all the dsytopian fare). When it came time to pick titles for the LMC, I knew exactly which ones would be gobbled up by the students. Only through browsing with real books can this kind of interaction occur. 

Houston, We Have Readers!- Our Book Fair customers were evenly divided between boys and girls. This didn't surprise me since I check books out to our students all day, but I want to point this statistic out to those who insist that boys mainly play video games. In fact, the boy gaming crowd who uses the Wii before/after school and during lunch are all among my regular readers. Also split almost evenly, the purchases of realistic and genre fiction, with fantasy/dystopian slightly ahead of the realistic titles.

What Now?- In terms of sales by traditional Scholastic standards, our sales were meager. However, through Scholastic's generous reward and incentive program we earned about forty-five new books for the LMC. Ms. Orest and I consider the Book Fair a huge success and we're thrilled that Scholastic is willing to work with us again next year.

What I want everyone to take away from our Book Fair Experience is this- reading is alive and well here on the Horizon campus and if you host a Scholastic Book Fair, they will come!

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