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Momentum Game Changer: Alter the Conversation to Transform Your Climate

It was 2010 and the educational buzz in New Jersey encircled changes in teacher tenure, teacher evaluation, along with drastic transformations in the delivery of instruction and state learning standards.

I was at a crossroad.

Not only were faculty members abuzz about everything, the connections were disjointed, lack of meaning in purpose and understanding became evident, and morale was disintegrating.

What was a supervisor to do?

Change the conversation.

Build momentum about something else.

Create teacher and student heroes.

What we needed:

To increase student achievement.

To build morale.

To get more students to read and talk about reading more.


Join me in looking back at the greatest book fair I have been a part of!

How it happened:

1. I pitched an idea with school administration to create a book fair based on donated books, only.

2. A PLC was created to integrate staff.

3. Collaboratively, we made decisions regarding the implementation and a plan of action.

4. Tasks were delegated.

5. An after school student book club was born.

6. Teacher and student leaders were delegated.

7. A grant was written and awarded.

8. Specifics surrounding quick wins and teacher/student successes were built into our timeline.

9. Buy in constructs in the form of tangible celebrations and school challenges for donations were implemented and communicated to our faculty and student body.

10. Visual displays and media communications were executed.

Little Tidbits:

1. Our Assistant School Administrator agreed to wear a dress the student body voted upon if the students donated the number of books that equaled the number of students in the high school.

2. For each new or gently used book donated, students received a ticket.

3. The tickets were saved for the book fair event. They were used to win book bundles that contained themed books and additional prizes (tickets to amusement park, nail salon, restaurant, etc.)

4. Our PLC, parents, and student club built resonance by wearing sponsored t-shirts, creating a video for daily morning news, creating a theme song and dance, and formulating the collection and organization of books, reading levels, and genres.

5. Teachers kept records of donations for homeroom rewards and ticket distribution.

6. Prom dresses were donated for voting auction and displayed in the cafeteria. (Really fun! Our assistant principal was a champ!)

7. Our student club upgraded our visual display daily.

8. Posters were made and media outreach was executed at each district school, on our local news channel and newspaper, on our school marquee, and in each school office.

9. A schedule for preview days and sale days was in place. (Students were given a wish list form they filled out and could buy presale!)

10. Cost was decided: $1.00 for a hardback/$.50 for paperback.

11. The grant was written to fund our initiative.

12. The relationship to our SIP (School Improvement Plan), and The Common Core Standards was communicated, with check-ins and feedback.

What happened:

1. We received over 1200 books, far superseding our aspiration of 700...honestly, I think we reached almost 2000 books by the week before the event.

It was so huge, we couldn't keep up with it on our display.

2. It became a district-wide event. Teachers and children from across the district reached out to attend, even bringing their families in the evening. Home school parents attended.

(Way cool!)

3. The number of books was so great, we realized we had our own little book store, and created genre specific displays, with students who motivated perspective readers, telling them about the books at their tables!

4. We received multiple copies of complete book, genre, and author collections!

4. Teachers became immersed in increased motivation to talk about books and reading all year!

5. Students were more excited about books than I have EVER seen!

6. A love for literacy was born!

7. Excess books were donated to our local hospice, shelters, and Children's Hospital. (Awesome feeling and the students experienced the concept of giving!)

8. All funds received from the book fair were used to purchase "wish" list items for the following school year.

9. What's the saying? We came, we saw, we conquered?

We did that and the woes regarding changes in our educational system diminished!

Literacy and empowerment became the new conversation!

10. Ohhh, and our awesome vice principal looked fabulous in his dress!

11. Teacher and student leaders created a legacy of readers and inspiration!

Check out more book fair photos and try this at your schools!

FYI: Our book fair was called The Overbrook High School Book Fair and Book Exchange because along with our book donation challenge, any student who brought in their summer reading text from the year prior, could exchange it for their new summer reading book, saving our families money and providing for our at-risk students.

Theresa Staley


"We are all here to make a difference, so let's do just that."

This blog is created to share my ideas and inspiration with fellow educators and our world.

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