Virtual Reality Brings School Book Fairs Online

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For so many students, the annual school book fair is something to look forward to all year—it’s a chance to explore all the coolest new books and pick out the very best titles to take home. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in-person book fairs are out of the question, but librarians and publishers are working together to bring the experience online.

Iowa’s Sheldon School District just wrapped up their virtual Fall Book Fair, which allowed local children to discover amazing new reads from their safety of their homes. Families had the option to shop via a traditional online store on Scholastic’s website, or to get the full book fair experience through virtual reality.

Through the latter, readers could click around a 360-degree simulation of a school gymnasium, filled with bookshelves, posters, character cutouts, and balloons. While it’s hard to beat the experience of browsing a real-life book store in person, the virtual reality version keeps the fun going during this era of social distancing.

“It makes it way more interactive than just a website where you go into a store and look through different books,” district librarian Jan Kinderknecht told the N’West Iowa REVIEW.

Beyond the fun they provide for kids, school book fairs like Sheldon School District’s are also a key source of funding for libraries: a portion of the revenue goes back to the school, which librarians can use to purchase even more books and educational materials to share with their communities.

“The rewards we earn are put back into the school,” West Virginia librarian Ashley Knotts, whose elementary school has also hosted a virtual book fair this year, told Mountain Statesman.  “This helps us keep new reading material on our shelves for all of our students to enjoy.”

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