October 28, 2016

Scholastic Book Fairs: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Our school just had a Scholastic Book Fair a couple of weeks ago. For anyone unfamiliar with that, Scholastic is a big publishing company that primarily works with schools. They generally offer paperback books at affordable or even cheap prices, and the books you buy as a parent build up points for their classroom teachers to purchase books as well.

So yeah. The Book Fair. There are definitely some good aspects to it. A percentage of the profits go toward the school library. Yay! Cheap books, as mentioned before. Double yay!  Lots of choices to get books into the hands of the children. Yes. All of that.

I'm about to swear off of them completely. (I'm skipping straight to the Ugly here.) It seems like every time I go into one of them I just about lose my ever-lovin' mind!

If it were all just books, my blood pressure might remain somewhat close to normal. However. Scholastic knows that kids don't care as much about cheap books as their parents. So every Book Fair includes tables full of little amazing toys--i.e., cheap junk--that are all way overpriced, and for which my children beg incessantly the minute they see them. I become a recording that says, "I'm not buying that. No way! Go put that back!...." over and over.

Then there are the gimmicky or toy-based books. I am a book snob. I can admit it!  The books that just want to sell my kid another piece of cheap junk, or subtly get them to buy a toy (or a movie) drive me crazy! There are always at least 3 large tables covered with these types of books. Of course, the books with the toys on front are always the ones my kids make a beeline for. Sigh.

So, I allow them each to choose one book. This time they all came back the first time with marginally acceptable choices. My daughter had a book way above her reading level--but it had a pen attached! My youngest son had a book of 3-D shark pictures, with cardboard 3-D glasses. My oldest son had a book about survival (compass included), a book about shark teeth with an almost-authentic-anyway-it-looks-cool shark tooth, plus a plastic "vault" that included a book on famous robberies and robbers from days gone by.

I managed to talk my daughter into a 2-book set of a series that she already likes, which also happened to include a ring. One down. My youngest wouldn't budge an inch on the shark book. I looked through it. There was a paragraph of shark facts on each page, and it was only $6.99. Sigh. Okay. I guess. (They were wearing me down, little by little!)

Now it was down to me and the oldest. I pointed out that with a 1-book limit, he had managed to choose 3--or 2 1/2, with the vault. He put back the shark tooth book, but the survival book wasn't for him! It was going to be a Christmas present for his Dad, plus he really wanted the vault. (Hoo boy. Putting back his own book--that softened me up.) Okay, fine. So now what about a book for him? But Mom, the vault has a book inside it! And he could use it in all these ways with toys he already has at home!

Guys, I totally caved and bought him the vault. It was $17(!!), and despite the fact that he is a very responsible boy, I'm not expecting it to last more than 6 months before it gets broken.  It also has the most annoying alarm known to man, which neither the "key" nor the "key card" will turn off. (The batteries have since been taken out of the alarm.) The "book" inside is more like a large pamphlet, but whatever.

My husband could not believe I paid $17 for a plastic vault. I can't either. I'm pleading temporary insanity brought on by the Scholastic Book Fair.

Hey, it wasn't a complete loss. I managed to find a Christmas book by Jan Brett that I'd never seen, for only $5.99.

What has been your experience with Scholastic Book Fairs? Any tips? :)

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