Hess School librarians Janet Yunghans and Kristen Mulraney are enthusiastic about reading, and work hard to make sure all 1,400 students in the school feel the same way.

"We are not your typical 'shush' librarians," Yunghans said. "We encourage kids to get involved and get excited about books so they become lifelong readers."

It's a busy week for the media specialists. The school is in the middle of its weeklong spring Scholastic Book Fair, and Yunghans and Mulraney, together with library assistant Gayle Luderitz, came up with a plan to motivate young readers with a "Pie-in-the-Face" contest.

The plan involves a competition between the "houses" of Hess and Principal Melanie Lamanteer, who agreed to assist the school in reaching its goal of 4,355 books purchased. Children receive a coupon for each book purchased, then enter each coupon into their house raffle. If the school reaches the goal, students will attend an assembly where Lamanteer will be on the receiving end of a cream pie, thrown by a teacher in the winning house.

"It's all for fun, and it shows that we will do anything to motivate reading," Yunghans said.

The signature event of the book fair, Family Night, is set to take place from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Family Night typically draws a large crowd as students and their families get to browse together to purchase reading materials. This year the book fair offers specially priced books and educational products, including popular series, award-winning titles, new releases and adult bestsellers from more than 100 publishers.

The Hamilton Township Education Association provides free refreshments for Family Night, including soft pretzels, cookies, apple slices and beverages.

"It's become one of our most anticipated events of the year and a lot of families come out to buy books, which gets the children really excited to read," Yunghans said.

The Hess School holds book fairs twice a year, in the fall and the spring. The schools' book fairs are some of the most successful in the entire state, according to Scholastic numbers.

"We are now one of the best selling book fairs in New Jersey, and that is important to us because the profits we make are used to purchase new books for our library," Yunghans explained.

Typically, between 200 and 300 new books can be purchased each year for the school library through book fair sales.

In addition, families can help the school build classroom libraries by purchasing books through the Classroom Wish List program.

Again this year, the book fair will feature the All for Books program, where kids can donate loose change to purchase books from the book fair for children who can't afford to purchase books. Scholastic matches monetary donations with a donation of up to one million books, which go to national non-profit organizations dedicated to helping families in need, such as the Kids in Distressed Situations and Kids In Need Foundation.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295

If you go

What:

Scholastic Book Fair

Where:

Hess Educational Complex, 700 Babcock Road, Mays Landing

When:

8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through March 28

More info:

Family Night, 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 26, school lobby area, free refreshments, activities.