If you went to elementary school in the United States, you probably remember the absolute transcendental paradise that was the Scholastic Book Fair.
First, your teachers would pass out those small flyers of books. The paper was thin and sticky and had that distinct newspapery smell to it. You’d grab the fattest marker you could find and circle all of the books that seemed interesting to you, and then bring the flyer home to your parents to beg them to buy you at least one of those books. They had to, because you were a small child begging your parents for books. How could they say no to that?
Soon that fateful day came: The Scholastic Book Fair came to your school and turned your library into a miniature book store for just a few days of Heaven. Your teacher took you down to the room and let loose an entire swarm of children who held the desperate need to touch every book there. There were toys, posters, bookmarks, fun erasers, necklaces and just about anything you could have ever wanted boxed up and placed in your library. Sometimes the books even came with those things, and that was the absolute gold mine that every kid wanted.
Not to mention the iconic reveal of that year’s Guinness Book of World Records, which only the elite bought because it was so expensive. Ironically, college kids also love Guinness. Just… not exactly the same one.
It was crazy. Your parents shoved a $20 bill in your hand and told you to go wild. I had a friend who spent all of her money on like 12 posters and five bookmarks. My brother’s friend’s little brother got in trouble once because he stole money from his parents to buy books, and I’m pretty sure the police got involved because his parents didn’t know what had happened.
Never underestimate a child at the Scholastic Book Fair. There was a finite number of each book, and if your class didn’t get there in time? Absolute war. Tears. Maybe even bloodshed. I once almost got murdered over a book on Jonas Brothers fun facts.
It has me thinking, though, what was it about the Scholastic Book Fair that had an entire generation so enthralled? How was it that they so effectively got children to love books? And what was it about the magic of that book fair that was so special? All they did was make a small bookstore in our schools and mildly exploit our parents for profit. Why doesn’t that same magic exist in normal bookstores?
I wish I had the answer. I think it was just the sense of power we all had. We were effectively in a store without our parents, with money to buy whatever we wanted. We were free to make our own decisions and spend money without someone else’s permission, which is something we rarely—if ever—got to experience. And what nine-year-old wouldn’t sell their soul for a “Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark” poster or “Animorphs” erasers? It reminds me of our desire today to buy anything with the Hogwarts crest on it or merch from whatever fandoms you may follow. But instead of having to scour the internet and buy it online, people more-or-less just showed up in our school and offered it to us.
It’s crazy to look at how much the Scholastic Book Fair affected our entire generation. I see people who haven’t touched a book in months, maybe even years, retweeting or sharing jokes like “I’m still chasing the high of the Scholastic Book Fair.” Which, yeah, I totally am, too.
What I really want is for the Scholastic Book Fair to not only service elementary schools, but broader levels of education. They should, at the very least, go to high schools. They’d get so many more people to buy and read books just based off nostalgia alone. All I’m saying is that if UConn decided to set up a book fair on Fairfield Way, it would be an absolute hit. I’d drag a group of friends there immediately, and it’d be a cool way to advertise some of the fiction books professors and students have published.
Think about it, UConn. Bring me some paperbacks and holographic bookmarks. My textbooks could use the flair.