The first of Inly’s two annual book fairs opens next Tuesday morning at 8:00, and so I will spend all next week playing store – but with real money! I always enjoy the book fairs, mostly because they are a chance to bring kids and books together in a relaxed social setting. It’s truly one of the highlights of the year to see kids getting so excited about the new books, making their “wish lists” and then beginning the decision process. Their questions are great: “Do you have that horse book?” Or…” I’m looking for a book I saw last year. It’s pink.”
For many of our parents, the book fair is a chance to see friends and maybe put a few books away for the upcoming holiday season.
We are using Scholastic for this fair. As always, I’m mixed about that. Scholastic knows that. I’m very open with my sales rep about my concerns – and appreciation – regarding Scholastic. Since today is Thursday, here are three annual “issues” I face when planning a Scholastic Book Fair.
1. Too many commercial tie-ins. Not that the Inly students see them. As I make clear to our patient Scholastic sales rep, Hannah Montana, Raven and all of their TV-Land friends never make it onto the display. They are hidden behind the big grey cases – but don’t tell our students. This is a tricky one. Lots of people say: “If a Hannah Montana book gets a reluctant reader to enjoy reading, they should be encouraged to read it.” I agree. Let them read it. That’s a totally different issue. I represent Inly when we have a book fair, and school should be a safe, commercial-free zone. Decisions about those kinds of books can be made elsewhere, but I want to provide parents a place to shop where they can trust that most of the books on the shelf are good. It’s not fair for me to put our parents in a position where an outing to the book fair is fraught with tension and negotiation.
2. Scholastic sells many things other than books. We get boxes of toys and posters and funny pens and….the list goes on. I get it. Scholastic is a business. But for many of the same reasons discussed above, I box most of the junk. Again, I’m hoping our parents will not look at the “man behind the curtain,” or in this case the grey cases. Our students love the pencils and posters, and I leave about 1/3 of those items on display. But, I don’t want parents looking at me as their child begs for a toy, and reasonably wondering about the purpose of our “book” fair. I struggle with this one because I know that for many schools that the revenue from the book fair is perhaps the only library fundraiser for the year, and those toys help make money to buy books. But Scholastic could make wiser choices about what they send to schools. Kids are bombarded with commercial messages everywhere they look.
3. All of that being said, there are things I really love about the Scholastic Book Fairs. They sell some wonderful books at reasonable prices. I am always amazed at how many new titles they have on their shelves. They are easy to work with. The displays are inviting. And, truly, once the extra “stuff” has been put away, what’s left on the shelf is a wide array of classic titles, interesting fiction and nonfiction, books on every conceivable subject of interest to children, books that represent all kinds of people, and…maybe even that pink book from last year.
More news from the fair next week…