A Book Fair for All

The richest kid in class is the kid whose parents gave them money for the Scholastic Book Fair. The conversation on those days were centered around the kid with the largest fair haul; this book, that book, a forensic scene kit, and a hoard of stationery complete with a collection of scented erasers. That kid was also the most popular. The rest of us had to be content with our humble single-book purchases. Some of us weren’t able to go at all. Teachers all but checked our pockets. If you had no cash you were left behind with only your imagination to build out scenes of your annual school book fair. Imagination together with desperate peeks through library windows- if the spots weren’t already filled by other little literary dreamers. During the book fair there was hardly an available hall pass or a clear library window. Scholastic drew us in with their shiny things. 

I remember running from the bus with my catalog asking my momma, not for money, but to borrow her special, sleek, inky black pen. She’d say “yes, but handle it with care.” This was her contribution to one of the most exciting times of the year. A magical wand. When I held it over the Scholastic catalog it gave me discernment. The type of discernment necessary for a child whose budget for school events were the coins in the couch, junk drawer, and old butter cookie canister- $2.50. This taught me responsibility and discipline, the same two elements that pushed me to enjoy the book fair in a less traditional way from most students- the book fair was a game of strategy.

I’d walk swiftly from my mother’s room to mine where the catalog was waiting on my desk, spotlighted under the beams of my lamp. I pulled my chair up and began my process, carefully circling every book I would like to bring home. This part is exciting. You read the book descriptions and even the details of the extras. 25 vibrantly pigmented markers, scented. Grape, Strawberry, Popcorn, Blueberry. I LOVE blueberry scented things… maybe there’s a blueberry eraser. Flip to the back. Nope, at least not in the catalog. Refocus. I browse the selections with intent, I take care not to select books based on special effects like 3D or holographic stickers. And I remember chapter books read longer- the thicker the better.

I circle the books I’d actually read. Pulling out a scrap paper, I would line up the prices of each circled book and at the very end I would calculate my total- 36.50. 

Today, I have stacks of books on every surface in my apartment – many remain unread or partially read– and I continue to buy books. My Scholastic Book Fair shopping strategy has evolved into filling virtual and physical shopping carts with every book that interests me and purchasing them all. The woes of brokeness didn’t deter me from the joys of literacy, the same should be true for every young child. Students need access to free, age appropriate reading materials in their homes. The resources to make sure this is so are in our communities, at our disposal. A book fair FOR ALL has been a dream of mine since I’ve been old enough to understand the exclusivity of traditional fairs. This is why we created the Beyond Book Fair.

-Ari Turner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *