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Book Fairs are a frequent accompaniment to Book Week. Here are some tips from the experts to get you started.
Who?
Follow the links to contact each supplier and
invesitgate their services, terms and conditions including their distribution area.

Also consider contacting your local bookshops and working out a deal with them.
They may be prepared to work with you
on a personalised fair.
Symons Educational Supplies, Gold Coast

Pegi Williams Book Shop, South Australia

Shakespeare's, South Australia

The Book Warehouse, Brisbane

Social Club Books, Victoria

Central Book Supplies, Central Coast, NSW

Carnival Fairs, NSW

Scholastic Book Fairs

Shearers Bookshop, Sydney

The Children's Bookshop, Sydney

Ask the company you choose what support they offer -some will even send a rep out if it's your first time.

If for some reason you choose to change companies for subsequent fairs, remember this is your right and you can say no to pushy salespeople. Just do it politely in case you use that company again.
When?

Remember some times, such as Children's Book Week, are very popular so your vendor
may not be able to supply you at that time if you don't book early. Some schools book from year to year to ensure the date!
Combine your Book Fair with another event which brings parents, grandparents and community members into the school such as
  • a family disco
  • Grandparents Day
  • parent interviews
  • Open Day
  • Science Fair
  • Family Reading Night

Consider having a themed book fair at a particular time such as Santa's Book Shop or Winter Reads or Welcome Spring. Or tie it to the Book Week theme.


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Bronwyn Bailey, Plumpton Public

Depending on the financial circumstances of the majority of your parents, hold it in either pay week or pension week.

Have it for a defined period of time - a week is usually long enough for all to buy.

If possible, have the stock arrive a week before your fair so there is time to set it up and for students to browse, especially ifthe books need to be unpacked and displayed.

Set the times students may buy and advertise these. It may depend on the number of helpers, other school activities and so forth. Decide whether students will be able to buy during class times or only during breaks, before and after school. Set times are better than allowing students to drift in throughout the day, but be flexible with parents.

If you have a fixed schedule, consider allowing students to browse during class times for the week before the fair, and to purchase during class times the week of the fair. It relieves a lot of stress and streamlines time.

If students are using a wishlist and bringing this with money, collect these in the morning, fulfil them during the day as you have time and distribute just before end-of-school.

Consider a parents' only time so presents can be bought without children in tow. Have a pre-school morning tea where parents can come with their pre-schoolers, have a snack, choose a book and then read it together uninterrupted.

If your fair is in conjunction with a school event, have it open during the whole event.

Consider a closing ceremony such as a book character parade.
What?
Know your target audience and have stock to suit.
The choice of stock is up to you so negotiate with the rep so they know who the target audience is.

If you school has a particular ethos that discourages certain types of books, such as the Harry Potter series, then tell the rep this but it is your responsibility to check stock for suitability before it is displayed.

Some companies offer non-book items and you need to decide if you will have these. Because they are cheap, they do mean that every child can buy something and feel they have participated. Because they can be tempting for little fingers, consider making a display board with a sample of each item so children can select but have the stock in a secure location.

Popular titles will often sell out quickly so ensure the company you use offers a back-order facility.
How?
Promotion is critical. Some companies suggest themes and send promotional materials to support these but you are not obligated to use them.
If you have a particular theme for your fair, think of a catchy title for it and ways that you can decorate the space to enhance the atmosphere. Children are fascinated by light and movement and it draws them in. It also shows that you have put some effort in and it's not just about being a fund-raiser.

This is a collage of shots from Santa's Book Shop which featured trains going a round a tree; Santa at home; fabric panels on the windows; and a host of other Christmas-themed displays including Santa's village. The word spread throughout the suburb and even non-school people came to view and buy.


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Look for ways for students to be involved in the display. These trees were a feature and created when each class was given an umbrella and challenged to make a tree from it.

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Use a themed flier to promote your book fair and display it everywhere you can well before the event, including social media.

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Decide whether you will have all sorts of books everywhere so people have to hunt and maybe purchase something on impulse, or whether you will group according to age, format, genre or some other way. If you group, consider signage so groups are easily located.

If you have a theme, consider a related competition that students can enter with winners drawn and prizes, such as a voucher to spend at the fair, awarded.

Provide time for students to browse before the fair opens. Wishlists allow students to select the items they would like, record their title and cost and take these home to parents. Buddy older classes with younger ones to make this easier. Parents can return the form and the money in a sealed envelope. Collect these at the beginning of the day (usually from younger students), fill the orders as you have time, and distribute just before home time for security. If an item has to be back-order have prepared notes to explain this to parents.

Limit the number of items students can wish for and make sure they understand that if the parents says "No" then that's OK and tantrums and sulks are NOT allowed

Some companies provide wishlist forms but these are easily made. Avoid blank paper scraps because they get lost in school bags. Attach the wishlist to a letter of explanation about the fair, such as this sample from Judi Nethery. Ensure that it is clear that the wishlist is just that - parents are not compelled to buy.
Who 2?
Helpers are essential for book fairs - sales and security are essential and too much for one. Start early and approach potential volunteers personally so you know who you are asking. Use adults as students may be intimidated by others to be less-than-honest.

Ensure that parent volunteers are made aware that anything they learn about other children or families is confidential.

Draw up a roster based on your selling times and have the volunteers select the times that suit them. Ensure they are aware of the role they are taking and what it entails. Give each parent a copy of the roster and their duties. Email them 48 hours before their shift to remind them of their commitment.

Have an orientation session so they know the stock and where it is. Encourage them to keep the layout you have created becasue young children will often remember the cover of an item and its location rather than its title or author. Make sure they know about not selling the last item and the procedure for noting back-orders.

Only have one person in charge of the cash register to avoid mistakes and delays. If you have credit card and EFTPOS facilities (highly recommended) ensure they know how to operate these.
How 2?
Consider having an opening ceremony and invite the local media. Your students assistants could organise this. Great advocacy.

Ensure you have a reasonable float of small change and notes - perhaps $100. Ensure credit card and EFTPOS facilties are working. Insist on only one person operating each cash register, Know whether receipts have to be given -have a receipt book handy for those who insist on one for tax purposes - and whether each title has to be recorded as it is sold. Have procedures in place to streamline the process.

Have plenty of "last item" slips and place these in thelast copy in the pile. Display signs that explain that the last item cannot be sold but it can be ordered. (Write the name of the person who wanted the last item on the slip so they can have it at the end of the fair. Have clear procedures for recording orders in place and submitting these at the end of each day of the fair, whichever is offered by your stockist.

As the TL, be available to assist your volunteers and to help your clients to find what they are looking for. Use you professional knowledge to make recommendations. If you have a theme, consider dressing up appropriately to be visible.


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Bronwyn Bailey, Plumpton Public

Make sure that students know they need to take responsibility for what they buy. Unfortunately, theft can be an issue. If possible, have bags available for students to put their purchases in and name them for security. Alternatively, use rubber bands and sticky notes If classes comes as a group, have a tub for purchases that the teacher keeps to distribute just before home time.

Display a selection of books that you would like to add to the school's collection - many parents like to make a donation and having suggestions makes it easier.

At the end of each sales session, do the paperwork and secure the money in the school safe. Keep a separate tally of sales figures so working out your commission is easy.

Be aware and clear about what is to happen with the commission, particularly if it is taken in cash. Educational authorities , such as NSW DEC, may have formal statements about its collection and disbursement; principals may see it as part of the library's overall budget rather than an extra; if the P & C has been involved, they may see it as part of their fund-raising and not return it to the library.

Consider taking it in goods and if they are superfluous to the collection, use them for awards and prizes or donate them to a local charity such as a women's refuge.

Even though there are fewer goods, packing up at the end of the fair can be time-consuming so enlist help. Combine it with coffee and cake. Be clear on the suppliers' instructions for accountability and returns.

Provide all your helpers, including the office manager who is taking care of the money, with a written note of thanks, perhaps even an afternoon tea. You want them back next time.
Celebrate the success of the fair, letting students, staff and parents know how it has contributed to both the library and the school community as a whole.

Start planning the next one - two a year is enough.

For more ideas, see this Pinterest board from Trish wade.