Book fairs are magical. At least, they used to be. Once multi-day affairs with live performances, grilled meats and a chance to meet Clifford may soon be just another place to buy books. And that’s the problem, kid’s don’t want to buy books, they want to uncover mystery and adventure.
Book fairs were once traveling circus acts, rolling into town with promises of new wonder to uncover. New stories, new characters, unthinkable odds and unlikely heroes, book fairs arrived at schools persuading kids take a journey through story.
I hope the persuasiveness of a the classic book fair isn’t dying, because I think it’s something special. I love an event where stories, in written form, take center stage. When we all look for something to get lost in.
When I was a young reader book fair books were ordered by checking boxes on newsprint quality catalogs. I made my selections based on the cover and description, but mostly the cover.
It’s not so different today. Books are laid out on tables and in shelved cabinets and are still, pretty much, bought because of their cover art or their affiliation with a video game.
Here’s the difference.
I had to wait to get my books. When you ordered from these book fair catalogs you didn’t get your book right away. You waited, and while you waited, you thought about that cover and about all the wonder that was soon headed your way.
Waiting is good. Good things come to those who wait because good things take time to make.
Stories are worth waiting for.
I’m not worried about our next generation of readers, they’re going to read and do amazing things. But, I’m worried about my dear book fair and loosing that special time of the year where stories roll in and the whole town comes out to see what’s new.
I like that sort of thing. I think its good for us to value story and to do so alongside each other.
So, let’s save book fairs before they find themselves shelved. How are we going to do it? Well, if I were in charge of the local school book fair, here’s what I’d do, maybe.
Keep patrons waiting a few minutes. No more open door policy. If you want to see what’s inside you’ll have to wait in a small queue. Why? Cause you’re not ready to enter the fair yet. You’re out of breathe, rushed, stressed and eager to get back home.
Slow down. There’s stories inside.
So, we make them wait and we theme that waiting area in a way that gets everyone excited to read. There’s music, sound effects and definitely a fog machine. And, that’s just the outside.
Once inside the fair, the caster wheeled metal book cabinets are closed and locked. There’s an opening ceremony where the fair’s storytician performs some unlocking ritual. Trouble with the locks requires kids and their parents to say a special phrase which unlocks the cabinets finally revealing stories, written with words and colorfully bound.
Is it possible? Sure. Practical? I doubt it. Still, I’m hoping some school out there, goes all in on the book fairs, like, full on Disneyland style, because we could all use a little reminder of how important finding magic really is.