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Wellesley PS finds a way to keep the book fair tradition alive

Book fairs are a long-time staple of the elementary school experience. As with just about everything this year, they’ve been a victim of the battle to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, there have been efforts to keep the tradition alive while adhering to public health guidelines. At Wellesley Public School, for instance, they’ve rolled out an online option in place of the usual in-person event.

Parent Claire Birrell has worked for many years to organize book fairs at the school. Because of the pandemic, she reached out to a publisher with the hopes of finding a way to host the event in another way, ultimately finding a solution.

“With COVID this year, obviously an in-person book fair isn’t allowed due to public health guidelines. So, I reached out to Scholastic and they offered a virtual book fair. So I thought, ‘well, there’s so many things that have been taken away from the kids. It’s not the same but that doesn’t mean we can still offer the same type of experience, and if it means books in kids hands and they’re reading, then why not try and see what happens,’” said Birrell.

The two-week even that’s been running since November 23 allows parents to go online and, by using a Shopify account that is linked to the school, they can purchase items for their kids, with 20 per cent of all sales going back towards the school.

Last year, the school grossed more than $10,000 in sales, which she attributes to the generous support of the community.

While she does not have any expectations for this year’s event sales, Birrell says she hopes people who may have books on their Christmas shopping list would consider buying them during the book fair before going somewhere else.

“My hope is that if you have books on your list, whether it’s Christmas or birthdays, that you would consider shopping there first before you went to Chapters or Amazon. But if we were able to get $500 back to the school, it would be certainly fantastic; anything higher than that would be great, but because we’ve never done it before, I didn’t want to get an expectation [in] my mind that I’d be disappointed,” she added.

Katie Hamm, library clerk with Wellesley Public School, says because of the virtual format, the fair loses some of the excitement she would normally see as kids browse through books and other items they wish to purchase as in prior years.

“I think it loses a lot of the hype because kids love to come in and physically see and touch the books and to see all of those [available to them]. All of the excitement building, the whole gym filled with library books or books to purchase. I think that’s going to be a big difference, but the fact that they are still able to have a chance to buy books from a book fair [is a good thing]. I think in 2020 [being able to run this is] at least a concession that it’s not one more thing they have to give up,” said Hamm.

As of the end of November, there were more than 300 books sold.

To take part in the book fair and help Wellesley Public School, visit virtualbookfairs.scholastic.ca/pages/5152066.

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