Book Fairs as School Fundraisers

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Book Fairs - pulling the plug on Scholastic

Feb 2014

Students at our elementary school get excited about the annual Scholastic Book Fair...less so, the parents who are trying to keep tugging hands out of their wallets. Reading is wonderful, but so many of their books are linked to tv shows or products, I'm not sure it's a good thing. Problem is, Scholastic entices the school with discounts/free books, and the fair is a significant fundraiser. So how to make the leap? What's it like with a different company? What about using donating used books or making it a book swap? Please share your experiences & ideas. Thanks, it takes a village : ) -Gabi

Having just come from our schools' Scholastic book fair, I can sympathize with you about the cost. My own kids came home with huge wishlists that would have had a sizable total! A little negotiation settled it easily.

Honestly, there are more books then just ones tied to shows and products. Our fair had a huge selection of story books for all ages, as well as science/learning books.

And while I understand the movement against corporate sponsorship, the truth is the schools (all schools!) need the money the fairs generate and getting upset that your child is reading a book tied to a show is counter productive to say the least. The child is READING about the show/product, not just plopped in front of a screen. The child doesn't comprehend any link to the marketing you perceive unless you make a fuss and point it out to them!

Book swaps are fine, if that is your preference. I'm sure your school doesn't mandate participation from you. But please remember that other parents really enjoy the book fair! You might be surprised at how many would frown on the parent who had it removed or changed.

Perhaps your book swap could be a separate event, not held at the same time as the book fair? A parent and Teacher

As a teacher, I agree that much of what Scholastic sells at the book fairs isn't quality literature. At my school we did not feel it was such a great fundraiser so we have started doing a book swap instead. However since your school does make a lot of money why don't you simply put away books that you don't like. I found that it was the toys that were the big hit. I think my students would have bought more books if there were no toys for sale.

Hicklebee's, an independent bookstore in the south bay, stocks fantastic Book Fairs. They have done lovely fairs for EBI, EBWS, a public school in Richmond, and others. Schools get a cut of the sales. Books are gorgeous, and hand-selected for the school. For EBI, they special ordered half the books in Spanish. Claire is the contact person there. Email me if you want her contact info, or just call the store. Best, Elisa M.

few thoughts: first, the books are ordered so if parents want fewer of a certain type, then they should let their librarian know. Keep in mind for many kids these books that we parents may not like to see or read (in our house it tends to be more about navy seals, tanks, etc) is a way to get a reluctant reader to read. If you have a child for whom reading comes easily then you may not realize that for those of us with kids that struggle it helps -- even if we don't watch the shows the books tie into.

The school we are at now does a concurrent book sale of gently used books that cost 25 cents -- this is so every child can buy a book - not just the ones who have parents able to buy new ones. Maybe a group of parents can meet with the librarian? Another thing our former school did which I loved was have a parent table of books about reading and how to help kids become great readers. I picked up one of the best books on the subject there. So, in a nutshell, I'd suggest not throwing out the baby with the bath water but maybe change the formula a bit. love to read

I couldn't agree with you more about Scholastic's insidious marketing in schools. We use them at my daughter's school, but feel the same & just haven't spoken loudly enough about how I feel. I have only purchased from them once or twice (at my daughter's insistence), but usually try to recycle the form before she sees it and just don't let her even look at it. Another local book seller that I would recommend is: Additionally, here are links to some scathing articles/info about Scholastic: Good luck....... anon

At my child's school, we have had an extremely successful read-a-thon for 2 years in a row. This fundraiser replaced what had been a wrapping/paper and gift sale. It was a welcome change by many parents, thrilled not to be obligated to buy unnecessary stuff, as well as get their kids focused on reading.

The coordinators did an amazing job of making the read-a-thon fun and full of great events. Each year they have had an assembly with a children's author, a kids' poster contest, and a day for kids to bring a blanket and a book. I don't know how much money was raised, but I can tell you that it has definitely at least matched the fundraiser it replaced. If you are interested in learning more, you can email me directly and I can put you in touch with the right people.

We do still have Scholastic on campus, but at least it is now paired with an event purely focused on getting kids reading, as opposed to all the book sales/product promotions you mention. mm_spark

At Oxford Elementary in Berkeley we have worked with Hicklebee's in San Jose as our book fair supplier for the last four years. We have been happy with the switch from Scholastic, but there are pro and cons:

Pros: Better selection of books and the ability to guide the selection (e.g. request specific titles/genres, request minimal or no toys and filler items). This is what really drove our decision, as the principal, parents and teachers were increasingly saddened to see the Scholastic selection have so many commercial tie-ins and questionable literary value.

Hicklebee's is great to work with. Claire Teel runs their fairs and has a wealth of experience in fairs and knowledge of the books.

Cons: Lower profit margin. Their margin varies by the total sales, but is about 20% in cash for a fair selling $4K-10K in books.

No free delivery/pick-up - they take some percentage off the profit if you need this (we have them deliver, but I have been able to drive the returns back in one SUV, given that we have a small, one day fair.) Y No scanners - need to ring up purchases on a register

I have had discussions in past years with Mrs. Dalloway\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2s about supplying the fair, but at the time they felt even our small fair was too much for them to handle -- maybe things have changed there. Other possible vendors are Mr. Mopps and Books Inc. Sally M.

Interesting you should ask. This topic was big last year in our school community.

In addition to being a parent, I am also a school library professional, so I can give two perspectives on this:

Our school has Scholastic Book Fairs twice a year. The kids love it, but many parents dread it. The tchotchkes, the toy books with moving parts, etc. There are very few choices in the Bay Area as far as companies that ''do'' book fairs. Even Scholastic fairs will look different at each school, depending on how much the school traditionally makes. (The more a school sells, the better selection Scholastic will send.) Different schools use money earned through Scholastic in different ways. Some schools, with little parent involvement, use the fundraiser to earn ''credit'' for teacher supplies and class libraries. (And we all know that teachers need this kind of support.) Other schools, like ours, use the funds/credit, solely to buy new library books. This is critical. Many parents did not realize our district had not provided ANY funding for school library books for well over a decade. The book fairs help solve this problem.

Last year our school tried Books Inc. Many parents, myself included, like to support local businesses. In the end, however, as I predicted, the fair made less than half of what the school library usually expects to use toward collection development and was more of a hassle in many ways. We went back to Scholastic this year.

Scholastic cons: As a book professional, I HATE scholastic bindings. As a parent, the Scholastic selection is frustrating with all of the movie and product tie ins. But there are always some very nice books to be found. I have always told my kids they could get one ''candy'' book, but the other book has to have an ''author.''

Scholastic Pros: Scholastic book fairs come all ready to go. There was MUCH more work when another company was tried.

-Affordability. Kids can come away with SOMETHING, erasers OR paperbooks with just a small sandwich bag of change. Independent companies might have a more well-heeled, cooler selection of books, but the hardbacks are expensive. We do teacher wish lists at our school. Parents can find affordable books their teachers have requested for the holidays or end of year thank you gifts.

-A better return. Depending on how your school uses the funds, Scholastic gives the option of credit. Their percentages are better than independents if you wish to take the money raised to fund your school projects, in the library or elsewhere.

If fundraising is your goal, than Scholastic, in our area, seems the way to go. I'll tolerate a few junk kid books (and we know kids love them) if I know I can still find ''quality kid lit'' (subjective, of course) and I know that my kids' school is getting the most benefit it can out of the fundraising aspect of it all.

All that said, my kids' school has a book exchange, too. There are shelves in the office foyer where you can leave used kid lit and exchange it for something new-to-you any time you want. In my work, I see schools doing book exchange events. Great for families who do not have easy access to books!

All in all, whatever it takes to build reading cultures for kids is okay in my book. If you can raise a few more needed dollars for your school, all the better. Anonymous

Our school used Banana Seed this year and it was great.

Hicklebee's in the Peninsula will do a book fair for you. They are a bookstore in the Peninsula and a former librarian runs the book fair services. Just like with Scholastics, they will deliver the books to you. But you get more profit if you pick them up. Because it's a bookstore, you can have access to the Scholastic books but many many more choices, and no junky toys! The sooner you plan the sooner you can tailor your book fair to your school's needs. For details and availability, Contact: Claire Teel 408-292-8880 or for email bookfairs [at] Claire is a pleasure to work with! anon

Alternatives for schools' book fairs

Oct 2007

Hello, Can anyone recommend an alternative to Scholastic Book Club for schools? I'm just wondering if there's one out there that is less commercial and/or features more diversity? Thanks so much. school mom helping with book orders

Years ago when my daughter was in elementary school, I got a book fair together that wasn't Scholastic! It took some work, but was very successful. I called many bookstores and asked if they wanted to participate and we worked out prices and pick-up arrangements. I had an official letter from the school that I could bring to the places so that they knew I was for real and not just trying to steal their books. The point, too, was that the books would be affordable so I asked for only paperbacks, if possible. The places I called were: Marcus Books, Oyate (not a store, but a distributor of books by and about Native Amerians), Arab Resource Center (not sure if they are still around, also not a book store, but had books), East Wind Books, Children's Book Press, and a few more that I can't remember. I also got the Lawrence Hall of Science bookstore involved. It was really fun but alot of work. I got some dedicated volunteers and we went for it! If the school is open to it, maybe you can do it yourself! At this point though, there may be a place that would just bring their variety of books into the school and save you the time and energy. If you are interested in talking about this more you can email me. nadja

Local bookstores like Cody's and Diesel do school book fairs. Our school hasn't used them, so I can't compare, but I'd love to switch over to not only a local company, but one that will take into consideration what kinds of books a particular school community might want. Hicklebees is a kids bookstore in San Jose and they do tons of book fairs and offer probably the best selection, but I'm not sure if they'll come to East Bay. Worth a call though. not a scholastic fan

Try Chinaberry books (1 800 776 2242 - they have sponsored school book fairs with free shipping in past. Let us know what happens! bookworm

Book Order Forms Coming Home from School

Sept 2004

What do other parents do with the book order forms kids bring home? My first grader wants nearly 2/3rds of the books on the form. Is this an oppurtunity to teach budgeting? A way to encourage literacy? Do I only let him get books HE can read? What??? I'm sure I'll figure this out myself, but I'm curious how others handle it. I was the same way when I was a kid...

We started a practice with those too frequent book order things that my 13 year old daughter still uses with the too frequent catalogs for trendy teen clothes that show up in our mailbox. I think it was very useful.

First, we made it clear that we would order only books. No software, no little stuffed animals or other toys. Then the kid went through and marked everything they wanted. We looked over it, and occasionally removed something from consideration, like if they ''forgot'' and marked a toy (the toy/book combos were tricky) or if we thought a book wasn't appropriate for them for some reason. Then they had to add up the price of everything that remained chosen (when they were younger, they wrote the list and we helped add with a calculator.) They were usually really surprised at how big that total was. I would then give them an amount I was willing to spend, and they went through and considered their list and subtracted the least desirable items until they got to the amount I would pay.

I felt they learned a lot from this process, about how the cost of many items adds up, and how to think about what you really want when you can't have it all. anne

I always let me kids circle the ones they wanted, and then I'd pick a few for each. I like to always encourage reading and a love of books. If they had several books still from a previous order that hadn't been read or enjoyed, I'd reconsider for that order. booklover

I was overwhelmed at first too - but now just say they can get books every so often, if I feel I can afford it. I also tell them no movie tie-in books, no books with little ''prizes'', no stupid books... Arbitrary maybe but the prices are actually reasonable and the flyers often have really good books that you should have in your kid's library anyway. But yes, I do also tend to stick to the books they can actually read. S