"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." -Richard Dawkins

Monday, January 12, 2009

More like Scholastic Crook Club.

I happened upon a recent Eco Child's Play article that practically stopped my heart. Turns out that the Scholastic Book Club of my childhood is now selling cheap toys alongside of the books I remember, and kids, inevitably, are more interested in the worthless glittery Made In China junk than they are in genuine literature.

I remember the Scholastic Book Club fondly. I remember waiting with incredible anticipation for the fair to show up at school, I remember the wide-eyed greedy awe that would consume me in the room full of fold-out display racks and tables covered in booksbooksbooks. I remember always being one of the first kids to have her Book It! Pin full of little stickers, thinking of how lucky I was to get my own pizza because of all that reading I did.

I remember feeling so grateful to have the chance to buy brand new books, all by myself, and though I don't remember all the books I ever bought through the Book Fair, I do remember the two books that made the greatest impact. I chose them because of their covers, which they tell you never to do, but in this case, it was one of the wiser decisions I ever made.

The first was the book that piqued my interest in Irish culture and dance (later culminating with a PBS broadcast of Riverdance.) It was Maude Casey's Over the Water. This story also secured my feminist mindset, and for the first time, the idea of being a strong woman seemed intensely palatable. "A feisty Irish girl comes of age and discovers the strength and beauty of her family heritage in this emotional novel. As a teenager in England, Mary Maeve feels stifled by her mother's strict rules. Not until Mary makes a painful visit "over the water" with her family does she learn the cause of her mother's bitterness and to accept and appreciate her people and their country."

At the same time, at the same Book Fair, I also chose C.B. Christiansen's I See the Moon. Another culturally-oriented story, this time about a Norwegian-American girl in a family locked in complex issues, teenage pregnancy, senility, and coming of age only a few of them. Both of these books were perfectly timed and I never realized it- girls newly becoming women, both with mildly dysfunctional families and personal, emotional struggles that make them question their self-worth, and in the end discovering that worth. Stories that I, at the time, desperately needed to be hearing.

Neither of these books are in my possession any longer, as I loaned them to a 'friend' who never returned them, (damned if I remember who it was,) but I am intent on acquiring them again and having them on Ro's shelf before it comes time for her to read them- to need them- same as I.

I do indeed digress. Read the article about the downfall of the Scholastic Book Club here, and be prepared to question your children's involvement when they head off to school. "According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, about one-third of what is offered in your child’s Scholastic flier is not a book. Instead, your child is being marketed video games, makeup, jewelry, and toys. In school. In their “book club” order."

To think I was excited for Ro to feel the same way. Guess I'm just going to have to take her to Barnes & Noble on my own time.


  1. Great post (glad I got to see it now). When I was in 5th grade my teacher was in charge of the school Scholastic Book Fairs. Since this was our big trip money-maker we helped to run things. I still remember the posters and pop-a-point pencils and things that were sold along with the books. These items were BIG sellers with the classic Scholastic items. Today schools are being sent all of the items that you mentioned and more. They believe that they are given the choice not to put the garbage out, but most are unaware of this (need to check on that with the head of the fair at our school).

    What bothers me more these days are the push on books to boys that teach inappropriate things. If you go to a book fair or read their pamphlets at home everything has Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I could handle Captain Underpants and his toilet humor, but kids being disrespectful and learning bad behaviors really bothers me.

    I still think that Scholastic Book Clubs are wonderful to students and teachers alike. They offer inexpensive books and give back to classrooms around the world. My son knows that we only order books from Scholastic and is thrilled with that. Where else can you find a 99 cents copy of a best-selling children's book that is normally a $12 hardcover? I can't think of any other location. Scholastic is stuck like other companies with making a profit and trying to sell items. Hopefully people can be forgiving and remember all of the good that they do.

  2. I totally agree with the awesomeness of offering literature at a price all families can take advantage of. I was very poor growing up, so it definitely resonates with me.

    I guess all there is to do is keep your fingers crossed and do your best to instill such a love for books in children that they DO take advantage of what a great system it is.