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"I feel like I have found my calling!"

27th March 2015

In a former life, I was a primary school teacher at the Bavarian International School, North of Munich in Germany. Nine years and two international moves later, I found myself back in Munich as a stay-at-home mother of three. 

I have kept particularly close contact with one ex-colleague, who informed me a couple of years ago that the school’s Usborne Organiser had gone back into teaching and that they were looking for another Organiser. My friend was convinced that I would be ideally suited to the opportunity, with my passion for literacy and children’s books. At the time I was up to my eyeballs in nappies, and just didn’t have the headspace to even consider the option. Each time we caught up over subsequent years, she would replant the idea in my head and in the autumn of 2014, the seed finally fell on fertile ground! I did come up with a few hurdles that seemed insurmountable but her response was, "Where there’s a will, there’s a way". 

What happened next?

I made that life-changing phone call to my soon-to-be Mentor in November of last year and there has been no stopping me since. I contacted the school principal via email shortly after and it didn’t take long to establish a great rapport. In fact, my dealings with the whole school have felt like I am "preaching to the converted" as the staff already know and love Usborne books - and who can resist the unbelievably generous school discounts?

How did you prepare for your first school events?

I don’t tend to do things by halves, so I decided to jump in with both feet! Distributing spring leaflets to the students was my starting point. At my Mentor’s suggestion, I proposed a book character dress-up day for World Book Day, as well as a sponsored read. The teacher was a little reluctant about the sponsored read at first, due to the possible extra work-load on the teachers. But, once I forwarded her the “Ready, Steady…READ!” package prepared by Usborne, both of us realised that the work was already done!

It was the school’s idea to add a Book Fair into the mix. It was something I hadn’t thought of, which is ironic, as it ended up being an overwhelming success! The school decided on a pyjama day as their dress-up theme for World Book Day. This served as a concrete reminder for the parents to give their children money to spend at the Book Fair that day. As did the hanging banner “Usborne Books are Here Today” in the car park. Pyjama day had the added bonus that it was no extra effort for the parents.

What was your relationship with the school like?

I made the journey to the school twice in the lead-up to World Book Day. The first time, I met the contact teacher and the principal. The second time, I presented a PowerPoint presentation at the staff meeting. It took me days to prepare the PowerPoint, but I was glad I had it to refer back to during the presentation. I only wish I had looked more closely at the “Tools & Downloads” on the USBAH website first. There is a fabulous PowerPoint template on there which would have saved me a lot of time had I found it a little earlier!

How helpful was your Mentor?

My phone calls to my Mentor were absolutely invaluable. I couldn’t have done this without her. Rarely a week went by where I didn’t have one or two lengthy calls with her. I always came off the phone feeling not just informed, but inspired. I really hope we will meet in person one day!

On the day, how did you set up your stand?

The books were spread across five large tables, separated enough to allow the students 360-degree access to the books. The books were sorted into four signposted categories (picture books, chapter books, non-fiction and art/craft/sticker/activity books) to ensure there was something for everyone. There was a rota in place for each class to pay a visit, which worked very well and parents could visit after school.

What made your event so successful?

I think communication was the key to the success of the event. I stayed in contact with the school via email in the weeks leading up to World Book Day. Parents were also well informed ahead of time, and given reminders by the principal as the date got closer. With help from the school's librarian and parent volunteers, it was a really positive experience for almost 500 children!

Did you get good feedback?

The feedback was very positive all round. The students were thrilled with the Book Fair. Being let loose in a “book shop” is a freedom that most of them have never known. The excitement was infectious! I had the principal and both librarians thanking ME for bringing Usborne Books back to the school and they were delighted with all the free books.

I am loving this job so much, that it is me who is grateful. I feel like Usborne Books provide an absolute win-win situation for the school and the Organiser alike.

How was the experience for you?

To be a part of something so positive was absolutely elating. The parents are already talking about the next Book Fair. I am already thinking about how many other schools I can get on board. Something this good just has to be shared!

I feel like I have found my calling and this is what I want to be doing. But I haven’t given up on my dream to one day write bilingual children books in English and German. With any luck, they will end up as Usborne Books. Watch this space!

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The total raised for the school through the combination of events was over £5000! What an amazing story. It's hard to believe that Susan only joined Usborne a few months ago...!

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