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Putting on a book fair, the easy (and free!) way

2013-12-06 08.47.36favicon As a literacy coach, my primary job is to work with teachers to improve reading and writing instruction. But a related goal is to help promote a culture of reading among students.

So far, it’s been really fun — and we’ve had quite a bit of success!

Last June, the principal at my Oakland school had a dream that came from a warm childhood memory. “Can we have Scholastic come to our school and do a book fair?” she asked.

I said sure, but Scholastic is better known for its books for younger kids. Their selection for urban teenagers of color is extremely limited. Plus, their book fairs are either expensive or tough to manage. There’s a lot of set-up and upkeep and takedown and drama.

So I countered. “How about doing our own book fair?” The principal agreed but wondered how we would pull it off. “Won’t it be a lot of work?”

It turns out, no, it didn’t take a lot of work. Actually, it was pretty easy, thanks to the wonderful teen librarians at the Oakland Public Library. The vice principal and I called up Brian Boies, the lead TeenZone librarian, and his staff pulled 150 high-interest titles (both fiction and nonfiction) for us to borrow for the book fair. I drove over in my Honda Civic and loaded the back seat with mountains of books.

Then, we elicited the help of our student librarians, who have already gained fame this year after founding the school’s new library. They sorted the books into genres, got tables and signs ready, and double checked the day’s schedule. English teachers brought in their classes in 20-minute installments, and each student got to browse, talk with the student librarians about books, and write down three titles they might want to read.

Here are a few more photos from the day:

Here’s the best part: The principal has decided to allocate funds so that all students will receive, right before Winter Break, at least one of the books on their list! Not a bad way to go into vacation!

Even if the book fair did not lead to the purchase of new books for students, it would have been a big success. Students got connected to good books. More important, students got connected to other students who like good books. There was much joy, and the joy was about reading. favicon

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