Are Scholastic Book Orders Worth It?

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The New York Times’ Motherlode blog recently asked how parents and teachers can “make book orders work for children who can’t afford books.” They included a quote from an anonymous source who offered a solution:

This year, I privately gave money to the teachers in my kids’ classes so they could allow the kids without money to order books each time.

This idea delights me more than any of the charitably promotional emails I received on #GivingTuesday. I had an instant vision of myself as the Book Fairy, going to Scholastic Book Fairs and giving librarians handfuls of cash to redistribute as needed. (I would, of course, be wearing a tutu made out of book pages, wings, and a mask.)

And then the commenters, to nobody’s surprise, tore Scholastic apart. One person stated that kids don’t need to own books they’re only going to read once or twice; that’s why we have libraries. Another person said that kids didn’t need to be reading the junky pop culture books Scholastic sells. Another person complained about wasting money on cheap trade paperbacks instead of books that would last.

Well. A quick glance at my bookshelf reveals that the majority of my library is made up of cheap trade paperbacks—including a handful of precious volumes from childhood. The spines are cracked, the paper is yellowed, and the covers are torn, but these books have in fact lasted for decades.

Why are the spines cracked? Probably because I read these books dozens of times. Reading a book once or twice and then giving it back to the library was nowhere near enough for me; more often, I’d find a book I loved at the library and then buy my own copy.

And yes, I read and loved the pop culture junk right alongside the classics. I had the “101 Jokes For Kids!” book and the Friends encyclopedia or whatever it was called (admittedly, the idea of writing a “Friends encyclopedia” for middle schoolers seems a little dubious, but it existed and I read it) and I’d estimate at least a third of my childhood library came directly from Scholastic.

So you already know my answer to this question. Scholastic book orders and book fairs are absolutely worth it, and placing book orders through Scholastic also earns points for your school which can be spent on more books and resources for classrooms or libraries.

But that doesn’t mean my answer is the only correct answer. Do you think Scholastic book orders are worth it? If you have kids, do you encourage them to order books or do you prefer they get their books from other sources?

(Also: because I put my money where my mouth is, I just donated $10 to BookTrust, which gives low-income students the opportunity to order books from Scholastic.)

Photo credit: Enokson

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