As a huge fan of reading, school book fairs get me hyped. I always looked forward to all the new books, talks and especially the giveaways. So when I was asked to volunteer for my sons’ book fair, there was no way I was saying no to it.
While there, I learned a few things along the way (such as making sure you set a time limit for working there!). I hope those lessons can help you as a volunteer and/or parent.
Kids love book fairs
Getting my kids to read is sometimes like pulling teeth. They are great at it but getting them to actually sit down and read in this era of digital devices isn’t easy. So I honestly thought that most kids wouldn’t even care about having book fairs at their school. Boy, was I wrong!
I watched my kids and others who say they hate reading walk in with huge smiles on their faces. They talk about the newest character in a series I didn’t even know existed. They give each other summaries of previous books they have read and I even witnessed kids recommending books to each other.
It felt like I was in a different world and it felt good. It felt good knowing that even though my kids never showed me how much they loved to read, they and their friends actually loved books! Seeing that excitement made my 2 hours fly by quicker than I ever expected!
Don’t be cheap … or forget the tax
As I walked around talking to the kid shoppers, I started to notice that some were really sad.
I immediately knew why. Kids were sad because their parents didn’t give them money or gave them way too little.
We parents know that most book fairs do not really offer a discount. Most fairs are held to help raise money for their school, so most books sell for their retail value. That sucks considering the deals online at stores like Amazon or all the free reading material around the web. So if you give your kids less than $5 for a book fair, you are guaranteeing they will not be able to buy a thing.
I get it, though. You don’t want to splurge on a book you can get cheaper elsewhere. However, this is an event geared toward your child, your child is the featured guest, and you don’t want them to feel like they aren’t part of it. I went to this book fair with $16 and left with zero all because some parents sent their kids with $2. Don’t be that person!
Pro Tip: Tax is real! Teach your kids that for every dollar they spend they should have a dime to go with it. So $2 equals 2 dimes, that’s enough for tax so your kids won’t look crazy at the front of the line. It also keeps others like me from going broke due to helping them.
They will buy garbage, get over it
Many parents swear by sending a list of books that their kids can buy at book fairs. That’s a great idea, but not one that I use often. I believe in letting my kids decide what they want to buy and owning that decision. I know that the chances of them actually buying a great book are low. They are with their friends and they will buy things that they feel are cool or that their friends are buying.
At this fair, I noticed a whole group of kids buying invisible ink. Every time I asked them why they all had the same general answer, they wanted to have fun with their friends writing hidden messages.
But wait isn’t this a book fair? Shouldn’t they be buying books so they can become the next best-selling authors themselves? And now you’re telling me it’s OK for them to buy junk?
I feel your pain, but yes — that’s exactly what I’m telling you.
A book fair is set up to showcase the great world of books. That junk they are buying is part of this great world and why they love it! Let them enjoy it!
Plus $5 or $10 won’t make or break you most of the time. Besides, I spent the whole entire afternoon playing with their invisible ink and created some dope memories with my kids because of it. You can’t beat that.
But don’t go broke at book fairs
This by far was the hardest lesson I had to learn. I’m a sucker! I can’t be around kids that are sad or don’t feel like they are a part of something big like a book fair. All I kept thinking was that some parents really sucked.
That’s wrong. You never want to judge a book by its cover so you never really know why a parent doesn’t give his/her child money for a book fair.
It doesn’t matter anyway. What matters are your pockets! It’s very easy to volunteer for a book fair and end up spending all of your own money helping out the kids that didn’t have enough.
I can’t help it so the only tip I have for this: come to work at school book fairs with as little money on you as possible. You can still be Santa with $5, kids forget the tax portion of a sale all the time. If you stick to only helping kids cover tax, $5 can go a long way.
I left there feeling like I didn’t help enough because I couldn’t help more kids buy stuff but I thanked myself later on for not carrying more money in my pockets. I would have gone broke and would probably never volunteer again if I had more cash on me!