Hosting a school book fair can be nerve-racking for first-time parent-teacher group volunteers, but it doesn’t need to be. With a little help from AIM you can make your event fun, lucrative, and educational.
Offering books at dedicated school book fairs is as vital today as it’s ever been. Parents who volunteer contribute to their child’s educational experience and success. These well-planned events put millions of books into child hands every year. Plus, US book fairs help schools raise truckloads of free reading material and resources .
A successful book fair can encourage children to read and get more excited about school. Access to books makes students better readers, more informed, and higher achievers . This article looks at how to get involved and help organize a book fair for your students.
Why Does the School Book Fair Week Still Matter?
An annual book fair matters for a whole range of reasons. These events are excellent networking opportunities for families and community leaders. Moreover, book fairs introduce students to all kinds of reading material to help them find a subject they’ll love and get them excited to read. But best of all, kids get to choose the books they want to read, and we’ll look at why that’s important shortly.
Let’s Get Kids Reading More
A study of around 4,000 third-grade students highlights the importance of reading .
Kids who are allowed to choose their own books become engaged readers. And the more they enjoy it, the more they read. That could be full-length novels, short stories, fiction, or nonfiction. It’s not so much about the book and it’s subject; it’s the act of reading that matters most in cultivating literacy.
A 2019 study found that kids who owned books were 22% more likely to read above the expected level for their age .
Did you know: Reading strengthens your brain, builds vocabulary, increases empathy, reduces stress, and aids quality sleep ?
Federal data shows the number of children who read for fun has declined . School book fairs and adult guidance can help to reverse declining interest.
How to Plan Your Upcoming School Book Fair
Rule #1 on how to organize a book fair is to recognize it’s a team effort. Every role is critical, from the casual volunteer to a full-time, front-line organizer. Planning is everything, whether it’s a first-time event or an improvement on the last one.
Making a Start
Has your PTA or PTO run a school book fair before? If yes, be sure you get the previous book fair’s notes from the committee chair before you begin. If this is the school’s first book fair, it’s time to create new notes. Our priority checklist below can help you map out your event in either case.
Your 6-point priority checklist should look something like this:
- Set a date for your school’s book fair
- Establish your budget
- Get help, reach out to others
- Contact the bookseller
- Themes and decorations
- Promote, promote, promote
As with any parent-teacher group event, there are liability concerns you will want to address. We’ll look more into the best insurance to protect your event later. But first, let’s go over the book fair checklist in more detail.
Did you know: Parents who read with and to younger children form closer bonds .
#1 Set a Date for Your School’s Book Fair
Allow yourself plenty of time to organize. It’s up to you how far in advance you plan, but aim for at least four months and preferably six. Whatever you do, check that your chosen date doesn’t coincide with any other school events or holidays. Save your dates on the school’s website, newsletter, and calendar when you’re sure.
Other dates and timings to consider are:
- The number of days the book fair spans
- Schedules, if any, for class and grades?
- Student access before the school day begins?
- Is there a preview day?
- And anything else you need to schedule in
#2 Establish Your Budget
Ascertain how much money you have for school’s book fair week. Review previous budgets if there are any to get some spending ideas. Then, meet with your PTA or PTO and the school librarian. Together, you can agree on the budget and set any fundraising goals.
Make a Money Checklist
Budgets are easier to figure out if you have previous data to use as a guide. If not, make sure you cover all costs, including things like décor, incidental expenses, incentive prizes, and so on. Also, decide on procedures for any reimbursements.
Tip: It’s not the size of your budget that matters; it’s how you spend it that counts.
#3 Get Help, Reach Out to Others
Extra heads and hands ease the pressure, lighten the workload, and add an element of fun to your book fair. The first step is recruiting your co-chair and establishing a school book fair committee.
Typical work responsibilities of the committee include things such as:
- Supervise and set up essential processes
- Control your inventory and establish contact with the bookseller(s)
- Print any gift certificates, organize prizes, refreshments, etc.
- Arrange cashiers, schedules, and other tasks
- Publicize the event in the real-world and virtual world
Contact Veteran Volunteers
Contact other parents and invite volunteers from your school district. Consider an online sign-up to reach out and encourage people to get involved. The notebooks of older book fairs should have previous helpers’ names and contact details. Once you have your volunteer list, plan the schedules and duties with your school’s librarian and staff.
Quick Tips: Ask your volunteers to arrive at least 15 minutes before opening to run over their duties. Also, get more volunteers on board than your event needs. Having a backup pool of helpers is a godsend if there are no-shows or someone has to leave on the day. It happens!
#4 Contact the Bookseller
Contacting the bookseller and forming a reciprocal relationship is a critical step. There can’t be any crossed wires in this association. First, you need to know the exact time they plan to deliver and collect the books. Also, find out if they come in boxes or pre-filled shelves. If the former, you’ll need to allow extra time for setting up.
Make a checklist of other things you need to discuss with the bookseller, like:
- Do they supply credit card machines and cash registers?
- What about training to use the equipment above?
- How do they calculate the final payment?
- When is the final payment due?
- Anything else you can think of
#5 Themes and Decorations
It’s in the bookseller’s interest to lend eye-catching display items, but check that they do. Decor and carefully chosen themes are an excellent way to draw attention. It’s an area the school librarian and art teachers may be keen to help with. Or, you may be able to re-use the successful themes and decorations from previous years.
#6 Promote, Promote, Promote!
Try to use a variety of promotional strategies to expand your reach. Ask the bookseller if they have any promotional posters you could use. Alternatively, get the art classes to hold a poster design challenge. You might want to offer a small gift for the winning designs. The school marquee is another excellent place to promote the book fair.
Virtual promotion of the book fair is sure to catch those otherwise hard-to-reach eyeballs. That can be via email, the school’s newsletter, Facebook page, etc.
Wrapping Up Your Book Fair
Wrapping up your book fair is also a busy event that needs proper organization. You need plenty of capable tear-down and clean-up volunteers. Some can dispose of one-time materials, while others carefully box and store all the reusable stuff. You’ll also need help with paperwork, plus counting and depositing any cash.
When it’s all over, a simple thank you note to your volunteers will go a long way.
Controlling Liability Risks with Book Fair Event Insurance
Fortunately, most school book fairs run without serious incidents. Even so, accidents and injuries can—and sometimes do—happen.
So, what are some ways that liability can be reduced?
AIM offers specialty insurance tailored to cover PTA and PTO events. Knowing your fair has protection from potential liability in case someone is injured gives tremendous peace of mind. It’s also the responsible thing to do.
How AIM Event Insurance Works
Your group has protection from lawsuits if someone at the book fair gets injured and holds you responsible. Every General Liability Policy includes fixed medical payments. Our event-specific insurance also protects your group’s property as well as people. There’s even an optional Social Media liability cover for those who need it.
General liability coverage through AIM covers not only the students at your school’s book fair, but also your volunteers. It even covers the setup and tear down, which can be helpful in an event where people may need to move heavy boxes of books.
You can get an Event Insurance quote for your PTA or PTO here.
Additional Insurance Coverage to Consider
In addition to general liability coverage for events, AIM provides embezzlement coverage to protect the funds your group is working so hard to raise. We encourage you to trust your volunteers, but from experience we can say embezzlement is the most common claim AIM services for our family of parent-teacher groups. It’s more common than you might think.
Well-run book fairs are exciting, atmospheric, and educational. Moreover, they do a fantastic job when it comes to getting kids—and families—more interested in books and reading. And the consequence of that has life-long benefits.