Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's a Preschool Fair

For the past couple of years, my library hosts a Preschool Fair at the Main Library.  With the big change in jobs this past fall, this now became one of my tasks.  Now that I have been through it, a Preschool Fair is actually a neat idea, promotes school involvement, and is inexpensive to do.  Here's how I did it:

Start early!  I sent out a letter to every preschool in our two townships, everybody who participated last year, and schools who have expressed interest at the beginning of October.  The letter introduced what we were trying to accomplish (showcasing local preschools) and gave a deadline to respond by.  I also included my email address as many of the schools had not met me before and I am working on building a relationship with them.

My deadline for a Preschool Fair on January 25 was Thanksgiving weekend.  Yes, I know that seems like a lot of time, but I then needed to track down those who didn't respond.  Plus, we all know what school schedules are like over the holiday break-you can't reach anyone.  I always started with a phone call.  When that didn't get a response, I sent the preschool teacher and principal at each of the schools an email with a new "must respond by" date.

Your phone will also become really popular once notice of your event goes out.  Our winter newsletter hit homes in mid-December and all of a sudden I had 5 more schools who wanted to participate.

Two weeks before our fair, I started to get serious.  This is when I printed our booklet that includes each school, contact information, and blank space for parents to make notes.  These all needed to be folded and stapled.  I had our subs stuff YS folders with our February Events calendar, winter reading form, Bookflix brochure, story time schedule, 100 Books to Read Before Kindergarten booklist, and a Sesame Street growth chart that we had leftover from some giveaway.  Every time we finished assembling something, we put it in a box and labelled it so it would be easily transported and unpacked downstairs.

I decided that we needed something fun for kids to do at our table also, so I came up with a quick craft.  My idea of a craft tends to be a die cut on a popsicle stick so we ended up with teddy bear puppets.  The sticks all had a glue dot put on ahead of time so kids (or parents) just had to peel the wrapper and stick the stick to the die cut when they were finished coloring.

The Day of the Fair
I picked up bottled water on my way in for the school representatives and was at the library by 8:30.  We loaded our boxes up on carts and moved them downstairs to our auditorium.  Our library opens at 9 a.m. and there were schools already outside waiting to come in.  Schools had one hour to set up before the fair opened at 10.  Our fair ran from 10-noon.

We set up a library table in the hall.  As people came in, they picked up a free book for their child (leftover from a grant), a package of CMPL crayons, a booklet listing the schools, our folder filled with events and information.  They could also enter a drawing.

our table 
 book choices

Our craft table was right next to our first table out in the hall.  Many time, while parents filled out their drawing entry, kids would color their puppet.

Our prize drawing happened as a result of me cleaning out our supply closet.  We had a lot of spare tote bags, backpacks, puzzles, books, and placemats leftover from previous drawings and giveaways.

You may wonder about expenses.  I will be honest-the only expenses that I ever usually see are those that come directly out of my program budget.  The cost of this year's fair was $6 to buy 48 bottles of water for the participants.  That is it!  Places where you could add/delete expenses are:
  • Letters to the schools could be emailed.
  • You don't need prizes.  If you think you do, check out leftover summer reading prizes or things cluttering up your closets.
  • Crafts-simple is good.  Even something like a coloring sheet would have been welcome today.
  • You don't need to pass out free books or crayons.  The only reason we did is that we had them from another event.

How did it go today?  Start by remembering the my library is in Michigan, home to the second Polar Vortex.  At the beginning of the fair, we had a blizzard and it was -3.  We still had 71 adults and 42 kids who came out to check out our 20 local schools.  Not all of our schools were in our service area, but those that weren't, were in the next city.  Parents were really excited to check out the local schools and many came out with a glazed eye look (but plenty of information to go through at home).  Schools were really excited to participate, because not only were they showing off to prospective parents, but they got to check out the competition.  Plus, I know that I end up with good ideas, by checking out the displays.  For example, today's good idea is that if you don't have a library tableskirt for an event, use a parachute.  It looks great!

Now Onto Next Year
I will admit that I am an idea person so I already have notes on things to expand or delete for next year.  Plus, I did send out a survey to all of our participants asking about the date, timing, and other issues.

My big thing for next year (if our millage passes) is to make the library table look as professional as the tables in the actual fair.  I would like a tableskirt and/or these cool display things that I saw at one of the tables (personally, I would like both).

 This sign works like an upside down shade.

I would also like to add a bigger children's component to the day, if not to the actual fair.  We are looking to set up a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program and I am thinking that it would be awesome to kick it off on the same day as the Preschool Fair.  Plus, then I have justification to have a costumed character walking around.

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