Stand and deliver

Elvira Bailey offers a survival guide to running a book fair.

A book fair is always a useful diversion during the inevitable delays on parents' evening at my nursery. However, in the past I have found that the price of appeasing my guilt at over-running interview time is acting as salesman, storeman and credit control manager for the publishers' distributor, all for a pittance.

So when Foyles Educational Children's Books contacted me claiming to be "the teacher's friend", I didn't return the first call.

The second call came while I was compiling the new term's diary, juggling the parents' nights with the staff's family commitments. A sympathetic chat with the Foyles rep, David, led to a fixed booking.

David visited me at the nursery before the parents' evening and we discussed my fears about running yet another book fair. I felt he had a genuine interest in pleasing both me and the nursery parents, as well as being sensitive to the nursery children's needs.

Also, it was immediately clear that for once, hosting the book stand would not involve me in a lot of extra work.Invitations were given to me to hand to the parents, notifying them that books would be available on parents' evening. On the morning of the event, David arrived to set up the stand and display the books. I didn't find myself helping unload boxes of books - booksellers' cars, I have found, are always parked a quarter of a mile away from the nursery door. I didn't even have to scurry around looking for non-existent tablecloths, or - rarer still - a spare table on which to set out the books.

Finally, during the evening, David's helpful unpushy manner made me relax with the thought that the parents weren't being forced into a purchase. They were allowed to browse without pressure after they had spoken to the teachers.

Carefully selected titles centred on my nursery's curriculum were beautifully set out on a stand. The cost of books varied from 99p to Pounds 5.99 - even the teachers' purses could be brought out of mothballs. Child's Play, Ladybird, BBC and Puffin were all represented in the broad spectrum of publishers and there were books for older brothers and sisters too.

I was relieved to see that stock was sold direct from the stand - parents did not have to wait weeks for the books they had ordered and I didn't have to collect any money.

I was even given a Book Bug, a gimmicky cardboard book marker. It's a clever marketing device, I realise, but these fun little characters do lend themselves to teaching phonetics and pencil control because of their simple names which are easy to spell.

Foyles listened to my fears, gave me solutions and - the best bit - did all the work.

Elvira Bailey is director of a group of Montessori nurseries in south-west London.Foyles: 0171 437 5660

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