A Literary Obsession: School Book Fairs

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Image: Scholastic Book Fair Spring 2020

I will buy books anywhere. Book sales, used book stores, independent book stores, chain book stores, grocery stores, Goodwill. I will beg, borrow and buy until my bookshelves are overflowing, which they are. I will read, and re-read, and recommend, and take suggestions, and I will judge a book by it’s cover and by it’s content. Twice a year the Scholastic Book Fair comes to my son’s elementary school and every year, I can’t tell who is more excited, him or me. The one held in April is usually the most well attended, as for the entire month they run a buy one get one free offer. The kids get so excited about this, and it is so nice to watch their energy as they pick their books out. My son’s school has an unwritten rule that in order to buy from the “stuff” section, the erasers, markers and the like, they first have to pick out a book, which I take great delight in.

Last time they were here, my fourth grader and I had a chance to stop by the book fair in between parent teacher conferences. When we got there, the line to check out was a mile long, and only one volunteer was manning the registers. I had taken a day off work last year to work the book fair, so she gave me a quick reminder lesson and I hopped on to help get the crowd down.

Image: Sarah Pinault

Standing with her for ten minutes checking kids out with their books just increased my desire for my own bookstore. It also gave my son some extra time to walk around. He knew that he was getting Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid one of the latest in the Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, but that second book was eluding him. Ultimately he found a double pack on the specials table, two books from the Princess Pink and the Land of Fake Believe series under the Scholastic Branches group. He has enjoyed several series from Branches, and I have to say I’m a big fan too. Any book that he can sit and devour and still have several left in the series is a big win when nurturing young readers.

For me the Scholastic Book Fair is tinged with nostalgia for my own early years as a budding bookworm. I remember when the book club would come to my school in England, the big steel boxes being unloaded and unfolded in the gymnasium, getting extra time and extra pocket money to peruse the selections. Our school worked with Usborne Books and I loved them so much. I still have most of those books and read them to my own children. A friend of mine sells for Usborne Books over here, and recently re-introduced me to them. They have some really quirky titles, and quite an exceptional non-fiction section. Of course, I always need more places to buy books from, and bookshelves, I need more bookshelves. Seriously, can someone send me more bookshelves.

In school book fairs alone Scholastic sells 55 million books to 70 million children and their families at more than 120,000 fairs in preschool, elementary, and middle schools around the world. That’s not even counting online sales and Scholastic books that can be found in brick and mortar stores. If you’ve ever gone through Kindergarten orientation with a child, you will notice that the teachers doing the testing hand the Kindergartners a book in one of the observations they do. In 2019 there are still children starting Kindergarten that have never held a book or been read to. Handing them a book and watching what they do with it is a non-embarrassing way of learning if the child knows what a book is. So I am all for a company that gets in on the ground floor and meets the kids right where they are. More books in more kids’ hands: that’s something we should all live by.

In a purely selfish move I shall probably take a day off for book fair again this coming year, ten minutes of watching kids purchase their next adventure gave me the book selling bug all over again, not that it ever really goes away. For one day a year, Cinderella can step into her comfortable shoes and become the book-seller that she has always dreamed of being.30

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