School book fairs are a great way to build your family’s home library while supporting your child’s school. Studies have shown that children with more books in their home do better in school than their classmates with fewer books in their homes. It is a great goal to build a family library of books for reading aloud and to give your child a wonderful selection of books to read.
Book fairs often include books from a wide range of interest levels. Board books, picture books, early readers, middle grade, young adult and even adult titles can often all be found at one book fair. Many parents also buy gifts at a book fair for extended family members and friends.
Photo by oddharmonic
Usually school book fairs are fundraisers for the school, the school library, or the PTA/PTO, so buying books at a book fair can be considered a win-win for most families. Individual schools use different companies for their book fairs, so I’m going to write in broad terms about book fairs in general, rather than specifying a certain brand.
From my experience as a former school librarian, classroom teacher, mom, and PTA volunteer, I now offer 6 book fair tips for parents as we head into “Book Fair Season”:
A Word about Wish Lists
Many schools offer children a “preview” day where they visit the book fair and have time to make a wish list of books that they would like to purchase. These wish lists are sent home to parents and the children can come back to the book fair later that week with money to make purchases. As a parent, keep in mind that wish lists are just that: wishes. You are not expected to purchase all of the books on the wish list. There may be great books at the book fair that your child didn’t select, and it is OK to add those to the list (or suggest a different book in place of an item on the wish list).
Tip #1- Talk with your child about the book fair, look over their wish list and book fair flyer or online site, and discuss which books would be a good addition to your family library.
Plan it Out
When information about the book fair comes home, sit down and chat with your child about it. Set a budget together and discuss how much you would like to spend at the book fair in total. I sometimes offer my boys a set amount of money that I will spend on the book fair and tell them if they want to spend more than that, they can add some of their own spending money.
Tip #2- Setting a budget is a good idea, and encouraging kids to spend some of their own money helps them to practice making financial decisions.
Look for deals
Photo by oddharmonic
Just like in a bookstore, new releases at a book fair are sold in hardback, and are often very expensive. If your child isn’t in a hurry to buy the newest book in a series, you can consider purchasing books that are now available in paperback and are usually less pricey. Also, many book fairs offer special deals on certain books. Sometimes you can find classics and other high quality award-winning books at discounted prices. Don’t feel that you have to purchase the expensive books. There are options for all budgets at the book fair, and if you choose carefully, sometimes you can buy multiple books for the same amount of money as one new release.
Tip #3- Make the most of your budget!
Encourage Kids to Buy Books, not Just Trinkets
Book fairs now often include accessories available for purchase in addition to the books. Some accessories are fun and useful (I’m thinking bookmarks, pencils, highlighters, and erasers). Others are fun, but not so useful in the classroom (giant pointing fingers and fidget spinners, I’m talking to you!). Talk to your child about these temptations and how to decide which trinkets, if any, would be a good choice and within the budget you set.
Tip #4 Keep the focus on the books.
Build the Classroom Library
Photo by popofatticus
Book fairs offer a great opportunity to contribute to your child’s classroom library. Often teachers make wish lists, too, and include titles that they could use in their classroom. Ask at your book fair if teachers had an opportunity to create wish lists. If not, ask your child if there is a book that would be a good addition to the classroom library. Keep in mind: The bigger the classroom library, the better– especially when the classroom library contains new, exciting books. Both the students and the teacher will truly appreciate your contribution.
Tip #5 Help build your child’s classroom library! If you do purchase a book for that purpose, encourage your child to write a dedication note inside so the teacher will know who bought it for the class.
Finally, consider volunteering at the book fair! These events are usually staffed with parent volunteers, and run much more smoothly with lots of help. Helpers are needed to help students create wish lists, find books, and check out with their purchases. If you don’t see an online sign up opportunity, ask the school librarian or a PTA member how you can help.
Tip #6 Parent volunteers help book fairs to run smoothly. Book fairs often have both daytime and evening hours, so there’s usually a time available for every schedule. If you are able to volunteer, sign up and help out.
Children usually come home from school full of energy and enthusiasm about the book fair! Use that excitement about reading and run with it! Follow these tips for a positive, fun book fair experience for your family.