The School Book Fair Is Every Parent's Nightmare

school book fair rant

How is it that after I swore up and down I wouldn’t spend a dime on overpriced items that don’t actually have anything to do with promoting a love of reading, I walked out of the room $50 lighter than when I walked in? Not to mention the buckets of sweat I’d lost from being crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with a thousand other parents and kids. If you ask me, the school book fair diet is more effective than a cayenne-and-lemon-juice fast for shedding those extra pounds.


For someone who loves books, I sure hate the school book fair. I’m talking about the Scholastic one that takes over kids’ brains for days on end as the entire school focuses on getting every student worked into a rabid lather over the chance to spend their parents’ hard-earned cash on things like the Super Mega Must-Have Star Wars LEGO Character Guide That’s Filled With Eight Thousand High-Resolution White-Background Photos of Toys and Like Maybe Five Words and Pokémon-branded pencils (merchandising motto: “Gotta beg for them all!”).

The book fair starts pissing me off before it even happens, because first the wish list comes home. Oh, the WISH LIST. I don’t know what classroom time gets usurped by the activity of having kids methodically circle all the various things they want their parents to buy, but here's MY wish list: how about the district gives overworked teachers more time to actually teach instead of encouraging children to whine for Ninjago marketing brochures thinly disguised as I Can Read! books.

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If you can’t tell, it’s the non-book stuff that really pisses me off about the book fair. My first-grader pouted all night because I wouldn’t buy the book about sharks that came with a fake shark tooth packaged on the front cover. Look, it would be one thing if he was legitimately interested in marine biology, but I know exactly why he wants that $19.95 hardcover: BECAUSE IT COMES WITH A PLASTIC TOOTH.

Don’t even get me started on my third-grader’s requests for LEGO coloring guides, Minecraft how-tos, and Pokémon “essential handbooks.” And that was before we showed up to the fair — which was, as always, a total sensory nightmare of adults and kids packed into one tiny space — and saw that they were also selling lollipops, posters, and a variety of toys.

I try to boycott the book fair, but I always end up feeling guilty as the week goes on and my kids sadly describe how all their friends are getting these totally amazing books each day. So I finally give in, and even though I insist on purchasing books that have sentences in them instead of product SKUs, I still find myself spending way more than I intended.

I suppose it’s all for a good cause, but I’d rather donate directly to the school and replace this yearly buy-buy-buy bonanza with a trip to the library. Last I checked, the children’s section over there is still devoted to stories -- although based on how book retailers have changed over the years, I'm sure it’s only a matter of time until library books are replaced by sticker collections, nail polish sets, and friendship bracelet kits.

Do you secretly hate the book fair too?

Image via jose_kevo/Flickr

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