After an end of the school year wave of standardized testing, Andrew Mychalus was looking for a way to reward students.
Mychalus, Kenmore Elementary School's Media Specialist, feels there's no better way to do that than offer up the school's annual book fair.
Kenmore is an award winning school when it comes to reading. The school collected the Cecil County Public Library Summer Reading Trophy in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Kenmore students had a half dozen consecutive years of bringing the trophy to their school.
"There are practical reasons for having the book fair at the end of the school year. The biggest tie in is getting ready for summer reading. The three good times for a book fair are in November, at Christmas, and during conference time," he said. But he said end of the year is best for students because it gives them things to read during summer. "We are building the reading habit. It's a lifelong habit," he said.
Mychalus ordered the standard Scholastic Book Fair in a kit. But he adds a twist. He doesn't put out the non-book items except during times when parents are coming to the book fair. "I like it and I don't like it. At least half of what they send is non-reading material. I don't put out the posters, and erasers until after school hours," he said.
Book fairs can be expensive. He said the typical student spends $10-$20 at book fair. He said the cost of paperbacks ranges from $5.99-$8.99. Many of the books are more expensive and are only offered in hardback.
"I'm pretty good at the physical mechanics of running a book fair," he said. But for the logistics, selling books, four volunteers helped out this year. "You haven't been at a book fair until you have a kindergartner come in with a bag full of pennies," he laughed.
When it comes to proceeds from the fair, Mychalus chooses the cash option. That way he can buy books from publishers other than Scholastic. "The funding of libraries hasn't changed in 25 years since I've been here," he said. So he relies on book fair funds to keep the shelves stocked. He estimates the media center will take in between $3,800 and $4,000 to buy books because of the book fair.
When it comes to books, children can be easily sold. There is a promotional video shown prior to the book fair. Mychalus said those books shown in the video fly off the shelves. He said perennial top sellers continue to be Minecraft, Star Wars, and anything Titanic related. The Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey, and anything related to video games all sell.
"Kids do buy history. Girls are more into stories about girls getting along with each other. But that's not a hard and fast rule," he said. He also said that publishers are now releasing books which appeal to both genders. A series featuring young superheroes is being purchased by both boys and girls. Other books series which are popular are the Pete the Cat series, American Girls, Dork Diaries, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. "And Goosebumps is back again, after 20 years," said Mychalus. He said the prize winning books may have won awards but they aren't necessarily those that sell best at book fairs.