I lose my shit at Book Fair.
Before you judge, let me assure you that I love books. And fairs. But when I find myself mobbed by fifty hysterical children and their parents, scrambling over each other to buy $4 books about ponies, I scream “This is bullshit!” and start to cry.
I understand that Book Fair is a school fundraiser, and I get that education is underfunded. I personally try to do my part. I vote for school taxes. I take my daughter door-to-door to collect donations for whatever “a-thon” is being sponsored that year. I buy the $20 coupon books for subpar restaurants, and then I put those coupon books in a drawer and immediately forget about them.
Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with buying books for my kid. Every month, I fill out the Scholastic Reading Club flyer, and spend an average of $15 on whatever piece-of-crap princess book she wants. So I get it, and I fully support Book Fair.
Nonetheless, I need to clarify a few things:
1. Book Fair needs to sell books, and only books.
I can’t believe I even have to say this, but I do. This year, I noticed an unusual uptick in the number of kids at Book Fair. As I approached the cash register, I saw the reason for their enthusiasm: Book Fair was now selling toys. Pretend cell phones, bouncy balls, and other crap you can buy cheaper at Wal-Mart. Since when did my kid’s elementary school become a toy store? Since Book Fair.
2. Stop pretending Book Fair is about child literacy.
Book Fair is set up in the school library, which is so ironic to me. I love libraries and all that they symbolize about democracy, access to free education, and yes—child literacy. But Book Fair is the antithesis of a library. Plunking it right in the middle of the school library is like taking a dump in the dining room. It just shouldn’t be done.
3. The phrase is “operating hours,” not “operating minutes.”
Book Fair is only open before and after school, which means I can purchase a book between the minutes of 8:15 a.m. and 8:40 a.m., or 3:07 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. What the hell? I have a full-time job, which means that it takes all of my expert scheduling skills to make it to Book Fair. Do I go into work late? Do I leave work midday, and then drive all the way back? Why am I even having this conversation with myself when I can Amazon Prime all this shit and have it delivered by a drone in two days?
4. Train the Book Fair parent volunteers.
In the time I was standing in line at my last Book Fair, the cashiers ran out of change, and one of the registers went down because the parent volunteer could not figure out how to replace the paper roll for receipts. How do you run out of change at a Book Fair? Children do not carry credit cards; they bring Ziploc bags of crumpled-up dollar bills. They also do not need receipts, so either scribble something down on a sticky note or let it go. In my opinion, all the Book Fair volunteers should be fired and replaced with 5th-grade Honors students.
5. Only I’m allowed to mind-fuck my kids.
Using class time to march a child through aisles of glittery, brand-new books is like taking them through a toy store before their birthday. No parent does this because it makes kids go crazy with consumerism, which I know is the point of Book Fair, but when my daughter hands me her “shopping list” with five thousand books circled, starred, and smiley-faced, I’m the one who has to crush her spirits. Not Book Fair.
Given that systemic change of this magnitude will probably never happen, I have one suggestion that will save both children and their parents from the brain damage that is Book Fair. Schools, send a note home that lists the amount of money normally raised with Book Fair, and tell parents that if the school receives double that in donations, Book Fair will be cancelled and every child will receive one free book. I bet all fundraising goals will be exceeded in twenty-four hours or less.
This original piece by was written exclusively for In the Powder Room, a division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC. Featured image © realmcoy via depositphotos.com.