Earlier this week I reminisced on one of my favorite elementary school memories as a few of the kindergarteners that I volunteer with showed me their new collection of books that they had recently purchased from their school’s book fair. Seeing their excitement over these books made me think back to when I was in elementary school. Though I don’t remember too many things from my early elementary education, I remember the Scholastic book fair because it was my favorite day of the school year!
I recalled how a few days before the book fair, my teacher would send me home with a catalog filled with the newest and most popular books on the market. I would precede to beg my parents for half of these books, which would normally result in a compromise of a couple of new books. At the book fair, I distinctly remember the shelves and shelves of brand new books and how my teacher would help me locate the specific ones that my parents and I had agreed on. Then, like a grown up, I would bring my books up to the register and purchase them with the envelope of cash or a check that my parents had sent with me.
Well, I got to relive this experience a couple weeks ago as a sweet kindergartener showed me her book fair “wish list,” all of which contained the book packages that came with the matching toy, charm bracelet, or stuffed animal. This made me laugh because these were the packages I remember being attracted to as in the early years of my reading, although my parents redirected my interest. And to no surprise, a few days later, these students that I volunteer with were beaming as they showed each other their recently purchased books.
While I always loved purchasing new books, I learned that I don’t get the same reaction when reading a book for the second or third time. Because of this, I began to notice that my growing book collection would sit for long periods of time following my completion of the book. This led me to later gravitating towards the public library and used book stores where I was able to read the book and later exchange it for something else to read.
Looking back, I don’t know if the Scholastic book fair actually encouraged me to read more, although I was always very eager to read my new books. Thinking about the book fair from an outside perspective, I have developed many concerns. How do events like this make low-income families feel? Should events that encourage the purchasing of “luxuries” be hosted in Title I schools? Do schools have the ability to set aside funding and scholarships for the families of children who cannot afford these books?
Thinking about families not being able to afford books is devastating to me, but also very much of a reality. This is not something that I considered in the early grades of elementary school, but definitely a growing concern of mine with the knowledge of the lack of accessible resources within low-income areas and Title I schools. To my surprise, Scholastic has created a document titled “Parents Go Back To School!” to address the literacy concerns specifically in Title I schools. This includes common challenges faced by principals, such as not feeling comfortable asking parents for money or to participate in activities that require money that they might not necessarily have. In addition, this factors in parent engagement and volunteer support. There is even a specific page for hosting book fairs in Title I schools!
In all, reminiscing on one of my favorite memories in early elementary school directed my eyes to the fact that this may not necessarily be the same experience of those in low-income areas. I appreciate the consideration that Scholastic has put into schools that may not have the the funds or resources to orchestrate an entire book fair and this gives me the hope that our school districts will continue to impliment programs that support families and provide students with necessary resources.