The Literary Festival–How to do it right

As a parent, school fundraisers aren’t usually something to look forward to. But every year, I can’t wait for our school’s Literary Festival. We held it last weekend at The Regulator bookstore, and it was a huge success.

It’s not just because I’m a writer, although that helps. It’s not just because this is the one time each year I allow myself to spend however much I want on books—it’s for a good cause! And it supports a local business, too! Even my kids love the Literary Festival.

What does it take to make a successful Literary Festival?

School-wide excitement and participation. Boy, does our school do it right.

Weeks before, there was a school-wide vote to select this year’s “theme”. Each class voted, and the winner was “Enter the Kingdom of Reading, Where Books Rule!”

Then there was a drawing contest–everyone could enter, as many times as they liked. The winners were selected to be on posters advertising the festival. Winners for each grade were also announced. All of the drawings were on display at the bookstore during the festival!

My daughter's drawing of a "Knight book."

My daughter’s drawing of a “Knight book.”

The week before, book-related trivia questions were given to each class (grade-appropriate), for example…
1.    In the novel “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio, fifth-grader August Pullman has a hard time adjusting to his new school. What is unusual about August?
a.    He has severe facial deformities
b.    He is hard of hearing
c.    He has only been home-schooled before
d.    All of the above

(Answer: D.)

The Festival itself

The Festival took place Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Thursday and Friday classes walked to the bookstore. There they browsed books, made “wish lists” (for parents to buy for home or the classroom), and listened to “Mystery Readers.”

"Wool E. Bull", the Durham Bulls Mascot, acting out "Ferdinand the Bull"

“Wool E. Bull”, the Durham Bulls Mascot, acting out “Ferdinand the Bull”

Friday was “Dress as your favorite literary character” day. Last year my kids went as two characters from my book—a mom’s biggest dream. Unfortunately, they wanted to be something else for Halloween. But how could I refuse?

"Timber Howligan" and "Lester McMuffin"

“Timber Howligan” and “Lester McMuffin”

Friday night was “Bedtime Stories” and “Scary Stories”—the main event. Parents bring kids in PJs. Snacks are served. Kids listen to stories while parents shop! My new favorite read-aloud was “The Dark” by Lemony Snicket (it’s wonderful). We also went home with “The Book with No Pictures” by B.J. Novak. (If your child, like mine, is resisting transitioning from picture books to chapter books, this is the book for you.)

My seven-year old daughter reads this out loud three times a day. In her mind, this is the book of the year, hands down.

What’s better than reading a book?

This year was special. My son’s class WROTE a book. They’ve been studying the Great Depression, so during the last week of the first quarter, they planned, outlined, and wrote “I Survived the Dust Bowl” (in the spirit of the very popular “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis). Each kid wrote one chapter. I helped edit and publish it over their three-week break.  At the Literary Festival, they had a “Meet the Author’s” table, where they signed and sold copies.


My daughter saw this and immediately started writing “I Survived the Dog Stampede.”
It turns out, there’s nothing like writing a book to encourage the love of reading.
We’ve got armfuls of new books to read. The school raised a few thousand dollars for their library. Success all around! This may well be more intensive than having Scholastic come in and hold a book fair (for more on that, check out kateywrites’ great post), and it does require the  cooperation of a local book store (We ❤ The Regulator). But a Literary Festival is another way to raise funds for your school, have fun, and cultivate a love of reading at the same time.


2 thoughts on “The Literary Festival–How to do it right

  1. What an amazing event you and your school put on! I’m uncontrollably jealous. I especially love the dress-like-your-favorite-character day.
    My children have also fallen for The Book With No Pictures and quote it randomly throughout the day. (“Mom! Hey Mom! I’m talking with my monkey mouth…my best friend is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt. Mom? Mom? Did you hear me say Butt?”)
    Thanks for a great post – and for linking over to my blog! I’m proud to be included here. Enjoy your week and keep up the good work of #raisingreaders !

  2. Thanks! I love your blog, and I am really grateful for the post you did a few weeks back on “The Rights of the Reader.” I get a lot of great ideas from you!

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