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Dollars and Sense – Guest blog by Susan Norwood

Susan Norwood writes today. Contact her via email.

Oh, no. I just talked to Diane about our upcoming Spring Book Fair, and she says that we may not have it. The book fairs are a school highlight. Seriously, our kids really look forward to them. Before I tell you about why we love them so much, let me assure you that this is not an advertisement for Scholastic, which sponsors the fair.

We had our last fair right before the winter holidays. It was a success just like the others that Diane had organized. Was it a success in terms of dollars? (“Show me the money?!”) Probably not. We are a Title I school. Our kids are not spending weekends in the bookstores luxuriously browsing for their next purchase. Many of our kids never go to bookstores or to the public library. They are middle-schoolers, hence they do not drive. Their parent(s)—and many are raised by single mothers—work 2-3 jobs. Many of our kids watch younger brothers and sisters when they get home. They simply do not have the time, opportunity, or funds to go to the bookstore.

The Book Fair was when the bookstore came to them, and enjoy it, they did! Scholastic provided us with DVDs of book trailers and interviews with authors. I showed them in my classroom. We could also view them on closed-circuit TV. What a great promotion! If you have seen these DVDs, you’ll know what I mean. Kids were truly interested and looking forward to seeing the books. In addition, Scholastic provided full-color, glossy pamphlets of the books.  The students also got bookmarks on which to mark their personal lists. Teachers could put together wish-lists for parents to donate.

The Book Fair was not really about making big bucks. I’m sure that selling chocolate bars probably made more. So what is the purpose of a Book Fair?  The purpose is to allow “students to explore a print rich environment.” That is the wording from our state standards. In library standards, the purpose is to allow students to “pursue personal and aesthetic growth.”

I wish I could communicate the amount of excitement and engagement that our book fairs, as run by Ms. Chen, inspire. Kids come out of the woodwork to help with the book fair. There are many opportunities to help. Kids “in the crew” can work in set-up, advertisement, security, etc. They don’t necessarily have much money to spend, but some actually save up for it. Even if they don’t have the money, they tell me what they want for the classroom library. They peruse the books, and some eventually read them.

Some things are not just about the dollars; some things are about the sense.