School Council Spotlight: Rockcliffe Park Book Fair

School Council Spotlight: Rockcliffe Park Book Fair
Posted on 11/24/2022

Rockcliffe Park Public School is gratefully celebrating the successful in-person return of the Rockcliffe Park Book Fair, which coincided with the school’s 100th anniversary! 

The Fair is an annual fundraiser held at the school in November. Run by a committee of parent volunteers (a sub-committee of the Rockcliffe PS School Council), it’s also made possible by the participation of community volunteers and the support of school students and staff. Though the Book Fair Committee is at work behind the scenes much of the year, the Fair itself takes place over three days during which thousands of books are sold. Proceeds support student activities and school improvements, as well as literacy programming at local schools.

When the Fair was founded by parent volunteers in 1961, the first sale took place in a single classroom with fifty books collected and sold. In 1965, to raise money for a new school library, parents Joan Askwith and Jane Dobell transformed the sale into a much larger, carefully curated selection of quality children’s books – at that time one of the biggest displays of children’s books anywhere in the country!

Rockcliffe Park Book Fair benefits the school financially, but also strengthens school-community relations and encourages literacy and volunteerism in students and parents alike. Volunteers contribute an estimated 4,000 hours per fair. 

Book Fair Grants have been given to sister schools and charitable causes over the years. To ensure this tradition continues, the Rockcliffe Park Public School Council voted on a commitment of giving no less than 35% of its profits to schools in need, as well as to the Education Foundation. This will be an ongoing commitment, as schools supporting schools is in the best interest of all students.


“What’s most remarkable, other than how much enthusiasm there still is for books, is the sense of community. Past and present students, parents and grandparents, teachers and school staff, and even volunteers without any connection to the school other than being a local resident or a lover of books, come together year after year to pitch in. It really is an all-ages community effort. We couldn’t do it without that help.” - Laura McCurdy,  2022 Book Fair Chair

Over the last several years, the event has adapted to the challenges of the pandemic, including moving to a virtual format last year. While volunteer turnout has been lower in recent years, the Book Fair Committee hopes that renewed interest after this autumn’s relaunch will bring aboard new volunteers, ideas, and the momentum to keep this wonderful tradition going.

Over the decades, the organizing committee has implemented many innovative approaches to planning, promoting, and running the event. They shared some strategies and best practices that helped to grow the event:

  • Enlisting parents, neighbours, friends and RPPS students to help sort books
  • Moving the sale into the school’s Queen Juliana Hall (gymnasium), where it is still held. 
  • Making public appeals for donations in local publications and even on water bills at one point!
  • Holding donation drives lasting much of the year and storing books in volunteers’ basements until large donation bins and purpose-built storage were added to the school. 
  • Adding puzzles, games and audio-visual materials to the sale.
  • Creating a tearoom and later the Book Fair Café, where food donations from local embassies and diplomatic families lend an international flavour.
  • Organizing events such as author readings, storytelling sessions, workshops and contests. 
  • Building a reliable team of veteran volunteers and enlisting their expertise to appraise older or more valuable books and even sell them online.
  • Soliciting donations from local businesses and the skills of parents and community members. This year, for example, an artist parent created delightful canvases and posters as decorations. 
  • Sharing proceeds to support literacy initiatives across the country and beyond, such as Newfoundland’s ‘floating libraries.’ (These days the priority is local schools.)
  • Involving RPPS students through ‘sort days’ organized by grade, writing and coloring contests and class book drives, and inviting them to an ‘early bird sale’ in the final days of set-up.

By engaging the school community and supporting fellow schools, this initiative reflects the OCDSB Culture of Caring and Social Responsibility. Congratulations to Rockcliffe Park Public School on your success!

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