If librarian and Book Fair chairperson Chris Hindenes were an energy drink, she could power a locomotive. Instead she powered a crew of pirates.
For 13 years, Chris has been the driving force behind her San Jose, Calif., school’s Fairs, which her students describe as “life-changing” and “amazing.” When the fall 2009 theme was Destination Book Fair: Read Around the World, Chris morphed into an Egyptian theme, so she couldn’t possibly repeat the Egyptian theme when Reading Oasis came around. But she could borrow on the decorations as a launching point – for a pirate theme.
This, of course, required a pirate ship with a hand-sewn sail (courtesy of the janitor) in the church hall. At the Teacher Preview, teachers filled out wish lists and put stars on books they recommended parents buy for their children. Children also attended a preview at which they also completed their wish lists.
Church members were able to shop at the Fair after service Sunday. The next day, students and parents attended an assembly featuring a pirate (on the ship, of course) who taught kids how to speak pirate language. “He’s a wonderful man who ministers to children, and he’s a fabulous actor. He read stories to the kids. They asked him questions, and he talked about the importance of reading even in 1700s,” Chris says. “All the kids got an eye patch, and a mom took pictures of every child and put on website.”
To set the tone for the Fair, Chris persuaded Principal Gayle Renken to dress up like a pirate for a video in which she told students about the “treasure of books” they would find at the Fair, threatening them not to miss it or “they be walking the plank.” The video played on a loop on laptops set up outside the Fair.
True to tradition, the fifth-grade class hosted the Fair, working under music teacher Noree Williams to provide entertainment in full costume for the Family Night on Wednesday, when Gayle again donned her pirate suit as parents shopped and dined at the Black Lagoon Café. Shoppers were also greeted by parent and longstanding Book Fair supporter and church member Wayne Peterson, aka Cap’n Blackbeard. Chairpeople throughout the area typically attend the school’s Family Night events after having attended an annual workshop at the school.
At the workshop this year, Chris was inspired to create a video featuring fifth-graders who shared what St. Timothy Book Fairs mean to them. “It should be a holiday,” one boy says of the Fairs. “When you open one of the books, your mind just explodes.” Adds another, “Without the Book Fair, our school would be completely different.” A once-struggling reader shares: “The Book Fair encouraged me to start reading because I had trouble reading.”
Fifth-graders also wrote stories made into books about life as a pirate, and every year each classroom throughout the school begins the year by working on class art projects that will be displayed at the Fair. “They put so much love into those projects,” Chris says. Some students also created treasure maps that teachers used to emphasize the importance of reading.
Grandparents flew in from across the country for the end-of-the-week Grand Event, which included breakfast and lunch. “Some kids don’t have grandparents or their grandparents couldn’t get here, so our church members act as surrogates,” Chris explains.
For Chris, Book Fair planning begins in summer. She promotes by sending home flyers, through a school intranet site, and using the school website. When students return in the fall, they try to guess how many pages are in the huge stack of books in the library for a chance to win candy. Even the physical education teacher gets involved by distributing Bucks for Books for students who complete a certain number of laps.
“We get so involved with books and reading and reaching out to the kids,” Chris says. “Book Fairs are huge in our lives.”