Every school wants to foster a love of reading and a sense of community among its students. One of the most effective ways to do this is by hosting a book fair. These events provide students with access to a wide range of books, encouraging them to find new favorites and engage with literature in fun and interactive ways. If you’re a new librarian or even one who has had book fairs in the past and are overwhelmed, here is some great book fair advice that I’ve figured out along the way to help you not only survive your book fair, but thrive!
Create a Theme
A themed school book fair can add an extra layer of excitement and interest to your event. Consider themes like “Journey to Other Worlds,” “Heroes and Villains,” or “Treasure Hunt.” You can use this theme to create a fun and interactive atmosphere, decorating the fair with posters, props, and costumes to create a magical environment. Many school book fair companies will provide you with themes and even sometimes decorations to support the theme. Make sure you check with the company you choose about if they have any themes. If you’re not the craftiest person in the world *raises hand*, Pinterest has been great for ideas on how to make my book fairs more engaging and pretty.
Host Author Visits
This is an advanced type move and I would only suggest this to someone who has help. If you’re alone in planning your book fair, just skip right to the next bit of advice.**
Inviting authors to your book fair can add a special touch and provide students with a unique opportunity to meet their favorite writers and hear about their books and writing processes. You can even host a book signing or Q&A session, where students can ask questions and get a signed copy of the book. Make sure that you’ll be getting copies of that author’s books from your book fair company. It might also be a good idea to take orders ahead of time so that you can ask for more of those books when speaking with your book fair rep.
Encourage Student Participation
Encouraging student participation can make your book fair a more enjoyable and memorable experience for everyone involved. You can have students create book displays, lead book-related activities, and even participate in a book trivia contest. By giving students a sense of ownership over the event, they will be more likely to engage with the books and each other.
Fun activities that you see a lot are Guess How Many____ are in the jar. Bonus points if the things in the jar can relate to your theme. Offering two different sized jars, one for lower grades and one for higher grades, is a great way to get more participation. The winner can take home whatever is in the jar or offer a free book or something else from the fair.
Offer Interactive Activities
Incorporating interactive activities into your book fair can make the experience more enjoyable and memorable for students. You can host storytelling sessions, book trivia games, and even a scavenger hunt where students search for books and complete challenges to win prizes. Think of activities that you can easily reuse for your next book fair. This could be as simple as creating student book wish lists, and then you could enlist the help of volunteers (parents or upper grade students) to help students fill out their wish lists.
Promote the Event
Promoting your book fair is key to ensuring a successful event. You can create flyers, posters, and social media posts to share information about the event, and encourage students to participate. One of the best times to hold book fairs is during the times when there are parent-teacher conferences. Parents and kids are already in the school. They can browse through the book fair while waiting to meet with their teacher or after.
Book Fair Planning Timeline
Months Before the Book Fair (Up to 1 year in advance):
- Choose a book fair company
- Choose a date that hopefully coincides with a time when families may already be in the building (parent-teacher conferences, literacy nights, etc.)
- Plan with your book fair rep to confirm dates, select theme, etc.
- Recruit volunteers – reach out to the school’s parent-teacher association, school newsletter, etc.
2 Weeks to 1 Month Before:
- Use parent volunteers to help with creating decorations around your book fair theme – Pinterest is your friend! Some book fair companies also have decoration idea guides
- Communicate with families and staff about the upcoming book fair to start building excitement
- Speak with your school secretary about any paperwork that may need to be filled out, how money should be handled, etc.
- Continue recruiting parent volunteers. Some will have something come up and you’d rather have too many volunteers than be alone one day because you thought you’d have enough and they all cancel
1 Week Before:
- Send promotional materials to teachers to share: Is there a video to watch? A catalog? Wish lists?
- Promote on school social media, newsletter, ClassDojo, Remind, etc. – Get the word out!
- Confirm scheduling with your parent volunteers
- Start talking about book fair rules with students when they come to the library
Book Fair Setup:
- Coordinate and delegate your volunteers – if you try to do everything, you’ll be there all night. Give everyone a job and be ready with more jobs if they finish
- Decorate – Put out all of those beautiful decorations you and your volunteers have prepared
- Plan for how you will pack up the fair each night
- Always plan for setup to take more time than you estimate. Think how long it will take and double that at least, especially if it’s your first book fair or book fair with that company
- Pro Tip: Buy a clear shower curtain and place it over your table of non-book things: pens, toys, erasers, etc. Just have one of each thing on the table as an example and have your stash of the actul things by your register. The clear shower curtain will deter sticky fingers and some items walking off.
During the Book Fair Preview:
- Have a teacher preview before school the morning that the student preview is there. Teachers will be able to talk to students about books, fill out book recommendation cards for their classes, etc.
- Reteach your book fair rules to teachers and students
- ALWAYS have students come for a class preview to fill out wish lists as a class. NO ONE CAN BUY AT THE PREVIEW – that kid might have brought their entire life savings to spend, but don’t give in. The preview is for looking
- Use volunteers to help students fill out wish lists
- Have all students do some of the interactive activities you’ve planned. It’s the one time the whole class will be at the book fair!
During the Book Fair:
- Enforce your book fair rules and make sure your volunteers do as well
- Keep accurate records using the provided cash register. Be ready for the register to not work at some point, and have your book fair rep’s phone number handy for when it does
- Have volunteers restock, help students find books and watch over the fair to let you know which books need to be ordered for restocking
- Pro Tip: Make a volunteer cart with snacks and drinks to pay your volunteers. Hopefully it’ll attract more for your next fair!
After the Book Fair:
- Pack up! – Make sure you have volunteers for this too because by this point, you’ll be exhausted from a week to 2 weeks of a book fair
- Turn in all accounting records to your school secretary. Hopefully most of the profits can go to you getting more resources for your school library!
- Schedule next year’s fair with your rep or decide to use a different company
Conclusion: Book Fair Advice
By incorporating these book fair ideas, you can have a great event for you and your school!