Sep 25, 2006

Scholastic Books: What's the Deal?

Jack has already brought home a book order from Scholastic. Memories of last year's book fair at his old Montessori came rushing back to me as I tossed the order into the recycling. Displays of trinkets. "Books" based on movies. Sponge Bob and other TV-show "books." I hadn't anticipated my having to say "no" every 30 seconds to my children at a book fair. At their school. I asked my sister in law, who is a school librarian in Pittsburgh, about her opinions of Scholastic. She said they have a near monopoly. She didn't like their extensive selling of licensed products and junk, either. But she really liked the particular sales rep who works with her school. Not a battle to pick in an inner city school, anyway.

The other day I browsed for information about Scholastic and stumbled upon the story, a few weeks old, about how Scholastic books had teamed up with ABC to present 9/11 propaganda. This was a study guide to the 9/11 docudrama (!), aimed at high schoolers. Scholastic did pull the study guide and replace it with material on critical reading and critical thinking. That's all very well, but . . .

Now I'm concerned all over again about Scholastic and their influence. Do they deserve near-universal patronage? I found this article in the Denver Post (from almost two years ago) in which lots of parents think exactly the way I do about the company's book fairs. But because Scholastic can cover losses due to error and theft, and smaller companies can't, there are few other options.I did find Jabberwocky, a local company in the Philadelphia area that holds book fairs. They claim to carry lots of award-winning titles and "virtually no fluff." What would it take for the Montessori (which Will still attends) to change? Half the yearly library budget comes from the book fair. I'm not ready to tackle the public school yet.

I'd be curious to get reader input on this . . . Does anyone else out there feel the way I do?

6 comments:

Scrivener said...

Yep, those Scholastic book fairs are always terrible. Every year there is clear pressure to buy some books as a contribution to the school, so I go through looking for something I can find that I won't absolutely hate to read to my kids. Usually they do have a few books that are worth having, hidden amongst all the dreck. I've never gone so far as to look into other options, though. And I had missed all the stuff about Scholastic's 9/11 "study" "guide."

Kerry H said...

Hi Lauren -

I am with you. The whole fundraising/Scholastic thing has been the downside of G starting kingergarten this year. It annoys me that the school/PTA get the kids all fired up about buying not-so-great books and selling overpriced knick-knacks to friends and family. I would love to just write a donation check to the school . . . but then MY kid won't win any prizes . . .

Sigh.

-Kerry

Anonymous said...

Scholastic has been dreck for at least 30 years -- they were selling crappy books when I was in kindergarten. I consider it yet another example of the phenomenon by which crappy, gendered, advertising-ridden products are subsidized for mass distribution to children at almost all income levels, while more neutral and higher-quality products are available to the upper classes for more money. Like clothing from Target v. clothing from Lands' End or something.

But. There are always a handful of good books at cheap prices available through Scholastic -- this most recent flyer had a Henry & Mudge book, I think. So I plan to do as Scrivener does, and pick out the few gems so that I don't have to feel guilty every time the teacher glances in my direction.

Don't even get me started on the fundraising sales...

Amy said...

No scholastic book pushers yet for my kindergartener, but in the first hour of the first day of his school career, there was a school assembly where they were peddling other crap for the kids to sell to their parents, family members and other suckers. Sadly, for my son's Philadelphia school, the sale raises an enormous amount of money so the school supplies can continue to roll in.

On a totally different (but not really) note, I had to bring handsoap and a ream of paper to the teacher for my son's first day of school--because of BUDGET CUTS. I love the Philadelphia school system. At least he's going to one of the best in Philly, and I'm not paying tuition, but Jeesh!

Suzanne said...

I haven't experienced a Scholastic book fair yet (son is still in preschool), but we do get their flyer every month. The junk-to-okay book ratio is pretty unfavorable on the "okay" side, but, like Phantom, I have found some good selections.

I am so not looking forward to the onslaught of crap-peddling fundraisers!

Anonymous said...

I've not been to a book fair yet but last year and this year we've gotten the Scholastic flyers. Unlike Phantom, I have fond--but unspecific--memories of Scholastic books from my childhood. I remember being excited about getting books. But I've been pretty appalled at the dumb tie-ins (the Princess stuff and other character stuff) or the workbook-like approaches to learning things like phonics. And irritated by the way they bundle books I want with ones I don't.

I usually try to find one book every other month that's not too bad. I just got CG a set of magnetic shapes that you can form into different patterns.

Jody (at Raising WEG) had an interesting post about Scholastic last year:http://tinyurl.com/gfa42