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Tips for Shopping the School Book Fair

At many schools around the country, librarians are frantically (pulling their hair out) getting ready for the school book fair. And it’s a right of passage for children, too… many of us can remember walking into the library with our class, money clenched tight in our fist, anticipating what treasured book we might bring home.

As parents and caregivers, the book fair can sometimes leave us a bit confused or unsure about how to help our child make the most of this event.

It is an important moment on the school calendar, for two big reasons:

1) This is typically the biggest fundraiser of the year for the school library. The school will earn substantial credit with Scholastic (or whatever book fair vendor they use, but Scholastic is the big name), which will allow the library to stock the shelves with new, relevant texts in the months to come.

As school budgets get squeezed tighter and tighter, supporting the book fair is more important than ever. And it’s so much easier than selling wrapping paper or cookie dough!

2) The book fair is an opportunity to emphasize individual choice in what your child reads. A book they’ve selected will immediately pique their interest for that very reason: they chose it.

12 Ways to Help Your School and Your Child Have a Successful Book Fair Experience

How much money to send: We are only familiar with the price points of Scholastic books fairs. At these sales, paperbacks are in the $3.99-$9.99 range, with most being around $6.99. There are some hardback books that are pricey, but they are typically the ones your kids will return to over and over, like the 2019 Guinness Book of World Records, Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary, etc. and you’ll thank yourself for the better binding and the ability to be trampled on in the backseat of the minivan on a daily basis. We both give our children $10 and also allow them to bring additional money of their own.

Set parameters: The only rule I place on my children is that they must buy a book (or 2-3 books, depending on how much money they take). The book fair is usually loaded with small toys, posters, journals, notepads, and well, junk. Talk to your child ahead of time about these products. I always tell my kids if they see a toy that they’re interested in, they may come home and tell me about it and we’ll add it to their Christmas/birthday list, but they are not allowed to purchase these items at the book fair.

Talk about leftover money: If your child has money leftover after making their purchase, decide what to do with the money. Most book fairs have a change collection near the register for donations. A common rule that many parents tell students is that if they have more than $2 leftover, they should bring the money home, but less than that, they can donate it back to the school.

Organize your child’s money: Please send money to school in an envelope or baggie with your child’s name and the amount in the bag or envelope. Have you ever seen a librarian count out $23.10 of wet (yes… WET) money while trying to juggle the rest of the class? Not that this has happened to me…

Look through the flyers: If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to make a good choice at the book fair, consider browsing in advance. Scholastic will provide flyers for families to browse prior to the fair. All the books in the flyer are guaranteed to be at the Fair. Schools are not provided with a complete list of titles, but the flyer is a great overall preview of the highlights.

Browse via the Scholastic App: You can also download the Scholastic Book Fair app in the app store. It will allow you to scan bar codes on the back of the books or front covers of books at the fair to provide more information such as reading level, reviews, and price. Here’s a 30 second video that may help you determine if it’s worth the free download.

A few titles promise to be best sellers at the book fairs held this fall:

Shop with them: Some schools allow parents to join their child for their class’s shopping time. Other schools have the book fair during parent nights or school events. Again, remember that this is a good time to allow your child to choose their own books, but this is one way of ensuring that any basic principles you’re implementing are followed (like books only, or financial limitations). Model how you search for books by encouraging them to read the summaries or open the book to check for difficulty, pictures, etc.

Shop after them: Again, if your child’s school allows parents to shop themselves, consider popping in after your child visits. They’re likely going to tell you about other books they considered or wished they had enough money to buy. This is the best way to know what to get them for birthdays, Christmas, or any other time you might want to treat them with a new book (or to get them out of a reading rut!)

Shop online: Most Scholastic Fairs have an online component. Visit http://www.scholastic.com/bookfairs/findafair to find yours. Books will be delivered to your child’s school. It’s also an easy way for grandparents (especially if they live far away) to spoil your child and support the school financially.

You can order online in your pajamas and your school will still get credit as if you were there in person! 

Volunteer: If your schedule permits, consider volunteering, especially toward the beginning of the fair. Then you can tip your child off as to hot titles or books they might enjoy that you’ve scouted out for them. Or volunteer toward the end and grab any titles they had their eye on to surprise them later.

Stock up: Many of these books would make wonderful holiday and birthday gifts for family members, all while the proceeds benefit the school. Prices are generally competitive with Amazon.

Look for Teacher Wish Lists: Never know what to get your child’s teacher for the holidays? Many book fairs have a teacher wish list section. You can buy the book and even add a sticker at the register to add to the inside cover so that teacher will forever remember it was from your child.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

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