Book Fairs Create Young Readers or Young Shoppers?

Recently I chaired the Scholastic Book Fair at my daughters’ elementary school.  It was labor intensive, but my kids are always so happy and proud when I do things at their school.  My 4th grader said, “Mommy, I hope you run book fair EVERY year!”  This was my fifth and hopefully final time, so I just smiled at her and gently said, “We’ll see” while silently screaming, “HELL NO!”  My 6th grader has the mistaken notion that because I run the fair, I somehow own all the merchandise, and she can just save things for me to buy for her each time she visits (several times a day throughout the course of the week).  “Put this in my stack behind the counter, Mom.  We’ll buy it later.”  We will?  And with who’s money, Missy???  Certainly not mine! 

I have something of a love/hate relationship with book fair and with Scholastic.   Obviously, reading is important to me, and any chance I have to promote it in kids, I’ll take.  But sadly book fair isn’t really about getting kids to read.  It’s about getting kids to BUY.  

Year after year I’m disgusted by some of the things that are sent out from Scholastic.  Expensive toys and activities that have nothing to do with reading (i.e. a plastic Venus flytrap for $19.99) have no place at book fair, in my opinion.  I just leave many of the items packed up rather than putting them out on the shelves.   I was happy to see that they finally got rid of the Bratz (or, as we call them, Slutz) items.  According to this article, Scholastic has pulled them for good, and I applaud them for that. 

I don’t understand the mass quantities of computer software and games that get sent out either- getting my kids (and myself) OFF the computer is the only way to get any of us to read.  When a kid brings a computer game up to the register, I always ask, “Do you think your mom would want you to buy that at book fair?  Do you think maybe she’d rather have you buy a book?  Are you sure that game is compatible with your computer at home? Because if it’s not, you can’t return it.”  They usually put it back.  

It makes me crazy when a kid comes in with $20 given to him by his parents, who presumably wanted him to buy a book or two- and the kid blows it at the cashier table on scented highlighters, a doggy pencil sharpener, erasers shaped like $100 bills, giant hand-shaped pointers, and a Camp Rock poster.  Or the adorable 6 year old who comes in and buys a pink sparkly blank journal with a skull and crossbones on it for $12. and a $4. purple pen with feathers on top.  Does the tiny girl even write her name yet, let alone write in a journal?  And why are kindergartners attracted to the whole skull and crossbones thing?  

Or the kid who comes to book fair with a blank check and brags, “My mom said I can buy whatever I want” as he fills in the check for $78. for a coffee table sized (and priced) football book, a toy ATM machine and several posters.  Or the kids who buy a book and have 58 cents in change and say, “What can I buy for 58 cents?”  I say, “You don’t have to spend every dime you brought” as they laugh and I point them to the bookmarks and erasers.  

I’m disgusted by the parents and grandparents who let their kids lead them around by the nose, demanding this and this and THIS.  One grandparent was there every day after school buying more stuff for the same bratty child, whipping out her checkbook and rolling her eyes as said child piled more stuff onto the teetering stack.  I heard her say, “This is the last time we’re coming in”, three days in a row.  Or the mom who told her 2nd grader, “You can pick out 4 books”, as the kid had a fit because she wanted 7 books.  Mom whined, “Why do you always do this to me?” as she pulled out her credit card for all 7 books.  Who’s in charge here, people?  

After a week I’m sickened by the rampant consumerism. Where is the love of reading, I ask you??