The idea has been percolating for years: host a book swap at the end of the school year. Students bring in unread books from home and get to take new-to-them books to read over summer break. In June, a teacher and I collaborated to bring this to life. How hard could it be?
- to give our students new-to-them books – including those who didn’t bring any to the swap
- to practice the art of “to give is to get” by donating books to less fortunate readers
How it worked:
- Early May 2015: Design a flyer and logo
- This was emailed to all families, available as paper handout in library, and sent electronically via the Principal Newsletter and the PTA Newsletter in late May.
- Late May 2015: Book Swap announced to students
- Lots of signage in the front office and on entry doors for families.
- Late May: Volunteer sign-up designed and sent via Google Docs
- Should have been before Memorial Day – give volunteers 3 weeks notice
- June 1-8: Book donations accepted
- Parents stood in the hall in the morning, tallying books brought in by students, then placed the books into bins by grade. The parents helped sort the books by genre after school started.
- June 5: Set up
- Yes, this was early. I had time in the day and hadn’t secured parents to help. Because most of the books had been sorted by parents and 5th grade student helpers into categories – Chapter Books, Series, Picture Books, Holiday, I Can Read, Famous Friends, Other Languages, Nonfiction, Infant – this wasn’t too difficult. It took about 3 hours total.
- June 10: Book Swap!
- Each grade level had 20 minutes to browse and swap. Volunteers picked up students who were participating from their classroom and brought them to the library.
- If a child didn’t bring any books to swap, they could still participate. Lunch recess was open for those students to visit and choose 2 books.
All students were aware of our 2 for 1 policy – bring 2 books, take 1, with the other item being donated to a reader in need. Our Kindness Club helped inform students around the school with posters and in-class visits.
- Over 3,000 books were donated, which included 1,000 from a teacher moving overseas.
- Over 1,000 books were gifted to three schools and 2 local non-profits.
- Two teachers and I delivered these after school and on weekends.
- Parents were overjoyed at the limited items students could take, as it lightened their bookshelves at home. Imparting a bring 2, take 1 rule worked well, as did capping the maximum books taken at 5 regardless of the number donated.
- Three boxes of books were donated that could not be regifted (board books, workbooks, adult books, religious books, etc.). The board books were donated to a non-profit, while the others were gifted to teachers or donated to the local non-profit store.
- Over 20 books in Mandarin were donated, prompting a new section in the library.
- Smiles were had all around!
- Have a method to track donations. We used a book-swap-ticket with the student’s name, teacher, number of books donated, and number of books to take. These were filled out when the donations were dropped off then returned to the student on the day of the swap.
- Run the book swap when library books are not circulating.
- Stamp hands of students who visit the swap to have an easy way to see which students visited (so they don’t revisit during recess).
- Encourage upper grades to bring in books their classmates will like. There will be TONS of lower level books donated and not enough upper level books.
- Visit used bookstores throughout the year to stock up on upper-level books for the swap at bargain prices. I bought 16 high-quality chapter books at Half Price Books for less than $16 before the swap.
- Start gathering boxes for organization and display a month in advance. Costco flats were some of my favorites for holding chapter books.
- Have a good group of volunteers to manage, then sort, the onslaught of donations in the mornings. We didn’t have enough most days…
- Display books with as many covers visible as possible.
- Group like items together.
A great event, but one that required much more planning, organization, time, and energy than I’d anticipated. Will we Book Swap in 2016? With a little more organization and volunteers, you bet.