This year, organizing a 3-day book fair in times of economic uncertainty and social instability was not an easy decision. Although it was the fourth time, we were going to do it, and our logistic planning tools were ready, we still had to test the waters to see if it would work. Will publishing and printing houses participate this time? Will local bookshops be able to join? Will students buy books the way they did in the three last versions of the book fair? Which schools and daycares will be able to attend the event? The list continued! We scheduled the book fair on our school calendar of events to be on the 23rd, 24th, and 26th of May, and the countdown to organize it has started as of the first days of April 2022.
As we started to contact the different book dealers, we found that many factors impeded their participation. These factors ranged from not having enough staff to be present during the book fair, not having suitable vehicles to deliver the books and display shelves, the transportation costs, and so on.
However, despite all odds, nine still decided to participate, even with a high-stake risk that their participation might not come with considerable returns, financially speaking. Their driving motive was very similar to ours as educators; we all wanted to bring life again to the spaces that missed life due to the 2-year hiatus because of the Coronavirus emergence. They made this decision and granted our school community and visitors with valuable and generous discounts and affordable prices so that every child leaves with a book in their hand.
As much as the preparations were demanding, in our minds we longed for the excitement of the classes coming up and down the stairs to see the new things that the book fair has brought, the groups of students flipping the pages of the books that caught their attention, having rounds across the different booths, discussing findings, and making choices, and not to forget, having our school educators find their longed-for resources to support the learning in their classes, or to add up to their classroom libraries, and the teacher librarians who are always eager to grow up their library collection with the latest publications as per the interest and needs of the growing love of reading that our learners are showing.
Having the above phase affixed, we moved to the next one, which is who will be invited to attend the book fair, in addition to the school students and teaching and non-teaching staff. An email served our purpose to invite all the schools in the School Network for Saida and its Neighboring Towns, and the daycares were contacted over the phone. Unsurprisingly, those academic institutions had their logistic struggles, just like us, and many abstained from bringing their students to attend the book fair as they used to do in the previous years, and the trip to the school location was just too costly. On the other hand, they had their teaching staff, librarians, and curriculum managers attend, and some schools, educational institutes, and daycares confirmed their students’ visits.
Organizing the book fair made the life of the elementary department staff busy with phone calls, preparing schedules of visits, setting installation and dismantling date and time, preparing a poster for the event, and even a promotional video for it, printing out the banners and company logos, coordinating with the IT and technical department to have things ready in due time and even the school gate security guards to attend to the school visitors on the book fair days, and many more details so that everything is organized to the best of expectations.
And off we go, the book fair was launched smoothly, and the three days passed as fast as a beautiful dream. The learners were excited to visit the fair accompanied by their teachers and even to give testimonials on how informing and enjoyable it is to host such an event, and our visitors enjoyed their experience too as they met the representatives of the different publishing companies and explored the imported collections and the new publications of the local publishing houses.
Along the book fair, we also arranged in collaboration with Scholastic Middle East Education & Trade Consultant, Mrs. Siham Abboud, to make storytelling sessions for the preschool department and with our grade 12 student, the young author Nancy Slim to make storytelling sessions using four different titles from a series she wrote for the elementary department learners.
Looking back at this experience, I feel very proud that things worked well, despite all the obstacles and fears that held us back at the beginning. However, persisting to do the best that could be done in such complicated circumstances and tailoring the details so that the expectations meet the reality have worked as the result of measured organization. At this point, we do not stop, and we immediately sought to receive feedback from our school community and the participating exhibitors to make our next version of this book fair just better and better.
Hala Al Kotob
PYP English Language, Library & Media Center Coordinator