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Remembering When Scholastic Meant Good Books

I thought it was the best day of the month: the day the Scholastic book orders came in.

 My teacher would sort the books into piles on the windowsill and hand out slips of paper recording the orders we’d filled out two weeks before, and we’d file by, grabbing the books we’d ordered and taking them back to our desks.  Everybody always ordered at least one book so that they would receive the free poster, generally some cute photo of a baby animal.  Remember?

I had a generous book club budget of ten dollars;  on a good month that would procure five or six books.  The best part, as I remember it, was that there were always a few 99 cent books offered, generally classics; and to stretch my book dollar I never failed to add these onto my order.  In this way I came to read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Sterling North’s Rascal, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.  These were all titles I never would have chosen otherwise.

Like so many things from my childhood, the Scholastic book club has changed, and not for the better.  It’s glitzier, it’s flashier- and it’s not all about the books.

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.

A fair portion of the books remaining can hardly be classified as children’s literature- rather, they are vapid, uninspiring summaries of movies and cartoon episodes.  Judy Newman, Scholastic vice president, claims “the toys and other non-book items spark student interest in the books“. 

I disagree. 

True literature sparks interest in story, in character, in lyricism and illustration.  Dora Goes to the Dentist sparks interest in Dora.

Even the books I would like to order- the emerging reader series about Biscuit the puppy and the Charlie and Lola books spring to mind- come packaged with some sort of cheap plastic zipper pull or bracelet- the types of toys I avoid due to the possibility of the presence of lead.   By packaging the books with these toys, Scholastic succeeds in driving the price up.  As much as I would like to support my child’s classroom by purchasing through Scholastic, the fact is I could buy these books more cheaply without the toy through a conventional bookstore.

They’re kids.  Given a ten dollar budget, what are they going to want to choose- two books, or an electronic door alarm?  Why distract them in this way? 

If Scholastic really wants to spark interest in reading, perhaps what they should do is offer more books, less expensive books, quality books, the way they did when I was a kid.  When a Scholastic book order coming in, the promise of new books to read, was the best day of the month.

Scholastic has no market without the support of parents.  Parents have already successfully swayed Scholastic to go green and to stop selling Bratz dollsPlease consider asking Scholastic to preserve the value of books in one place it really belongs: school book clubs.

Tell Scholastic to put the books back in book clubs! 

Also, I’m interested to know if I’m alone in my fond Scholastic memories.  Share in the comments?

Photo Credit: Lori Greig under Creative Commons

Comments

  1. It sounds like the VP isn’t a book lover. Non-book-lovers don’t “get” that books are magical, and they don’t need gimmicks. Perhaps the people at Scholastic should just start reading more and recapture some of that magic.

  2. I LOVED the Scholastic Books Club. And I wasn’t always allowed to get everything I wanted, usually just a book or two, but man, the excitement I felt when they came in. I was getting a new book (or two!) that I could KEEP! And even if I couldn’t buy anything that month, I loved to go through the “catalog” and circle every book that I wanted – then I would borrow them from the library.

    Toys and all that other junk have no place in a book club. What is Scholastic about plastic junk toys?

  3. What will be next? The basics of being a child have been ruined in “modern society”, what is to be gained by selling make up to children thru a book club? sick & disgusting, these people have no shame. Support your local library, no make up for sale there, my children love library trips.

  4. Well said! While I’m incredibly disappointed to hear about this, parents have the power to influence Scholastic’s offerings. Quality books is what it’s all about–how about some Roald Dahl? When I was little, I found those stories absolutely magical, and read them all multiple times.

  5. I agree. Even when I was in college and tutoring elementary school kids, I’d get so excited when I saw one with an order form. Then the disappointment would come because there was so much JUNK in there. It’s a book club, for heaven’s sake. Sell BOOKS. Definitely isn’t what it used to be, and that saddens me.

  6. Those book order forms were the highlight of school, nothing excited me more than getting new books. My daughter is the same way though she is often swayed by the other crap they offer. I ask her to keep the requests to the books, not jewelry and games and other junk she doesn’t need.

  7. I have a daughter in public school for the first time this year, in first grade. So I have gotten a few of these Scholastic fliers. And while I have seen some commercial tie-ins (my daughters picked out two Barbie chapter books & a Littlest Pet Shop book at the book fair, & for the record did not suddenly ask for the toys depicted therein), I have not seen toys for sale in the fliers. There were a few things available at the book fair, but they were of the school-supply type, in the main. Fancy pencils, that sort of thing. If there are toys for sale in the fliers, either they’re not in the 1st grade fliers, or I simply don’t see them because I’m looking at the books, and that’s what my girl wants anyway.

  8. Scholastic used to have ‘book fairs’ at my schools so I didn’t have to order anything or wait! I bought and still have many of the books I got while I was a child, QUALITY books I still read to this day! While the ‘toys’ and other crap always interested me (I’d sometimes buy some weird pencil stuff or a ruler) I could never afford them, and found the mini-novels to be much more interesting.

    I can’t say the same for this generation though ):

  9. Hey folks.

    Stumbled here, glad I did. I’ve helped our school librarian with the last couple of Scholastic book fairs and while the sheer volume of books amazes me, I did find that there were a lot of items that were just one step above a happy meal toy. The kids flock to the durned things. Not so sure they spark much of an interest in books…

    Cheers

    George

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