The Reading Cult for Kids: Scholastic Books

I have vivid recollections of my six years in elementary school.  A few are traumatic–hysterics on the first day of kindergarten after being pried from my mother’s arms and deposited aboard a menacing, yellow bus; a sadistic first grade teacher who sported a towering beehive (in ’81) and took pleasure in punishing disorganized little me by dumping the contents of my desk on to my lap as I sat on the floor crying.  But there were good times amid the trauma. 

I recall the fun that was inhaling the heady scent of mimeographed paper (old-time photocopies for the youngsters!), D.E.A.R time (Drop Everything And Read), and best of all, SCHOLASTIC BOOK FLIERS and FAIRS.

scholastic

Scholastic has been peddling books to school children via mini-newspapers for almost 60 years.  I perused the flier with the fervor of a lost man studying a map. 

Whole hours were spent poring over the literary possibilities.  The epic decisions that rested on my little shoulders threatened to break me.   Should I stay safe and go with Clifford and Corduroy, or maybe try something new?

Going out on a limb, selecting an unknown author or title, was a venture fraught with peril.  A feeling of unease would set in if I let spontaneity rule; I would invariably pick the cruddiest book that Scholastic offered.  Weeks of anticipation and waiting for my package would be for naught.

I still own a few of my Scholastic purchases to this day.  The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willow Davis Roberts  was one of my favorites and still has a place of honor in the “silver” section of my organized-by-color book cabinet. 

So, ‘fess up.  Were you a Scholastic disciple?  Did you order up books from the little newspaper?  I know this wasn’t only a Jersey thing–sure, we’ve got the market on nuclear waste and the mafia cornered…but other states had to have Scholastic too!

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  • At 2009.03.17 21:19, Heather said:

    Oh my goodness, I totally remember getting these in school. Only, my family didn’t have any money, so all I could do was fantasize over all the books I would get if only I was allowed. I could spend HOURS looking over these, though, and then I’d usually trot off to the library and hope that some of them would be there instead. 🙂
    Great memories!!

    • At 2009.03.18 20:02, natalie said:

      i was a tad envious of those other kids too–they were also at my school!

      • At 2009.03.18 04:11, Bibliolatrist said:

        OH YEAH!! Receiving the Scholastic order pages were the highlight of my young life back then. I was always allowed to order a book or two, and I spent hours deciding on those special titles. After turning in my order, I remember sitting on pins and needles until the day I received the books in class — they never came fast enough.

        Thanks for reminding me of them — I had nearly forgotten!

        • At 2009.03.18 07:27, Susan from WhelanFlynn said:

          We had the Scholastic catalogues here too(Newcastle, Australia). I can remember being so excited each term taking them home, spending hours culling my wish list down and being absolutely devastated when my mother restricted me to just one or sometimes none. Ahh, the cruelty of it all.

          My kids’ school doesn’t do the Scholastic catalogues, but we do have a stall set up for Book Week each year and the kids get two days to cruise the shelves and write a wishlist before the open day when we can buy books. Their pages are usually covered on both sides with their requests.

          Such simple pleasures.

          • At 2009.03.18 19:53, natalie said:

            i remember a few times when money was tight and i couldn’t order. my dad would take me over to the library with the flier and we would “make do”…

            • At 2009.03.18 08:18, Stephanie said:

              I wasn’t much of a reader when I was younger (I know, can you believe it) but do have fond memories of picking the books up from school after ordering them. So much fun!

              • At 2009.03.18 19:52, natalie said:

                thanks, gina!! do you have a blog? if so, leave a live link so i can come visit.

                • At 2009.03.18 08:26, Stephanie of Stopbouncing said:

                  <– Also “look but you can’t have”…

                  Sometimes, and I can recall twice, I was allowed to pick a book from the form.
                  The only one I remember was “Adventures in Babysitting” (yes, after the movie) and being told by the order-taker that the book was “too advanced” for me.
                  Which it wasn’t.
                  It only took an afternoon.
                  So there.

                  Oh, there’s that feeling of trauma!

                  • At 2009.03.18 09:40, Emily said:

                    oh I completely remember Scholastic “catalogs”! I was always so excited to be able to get something (my parents wouldn’t let me every time) and I would go through it once just looking, then I would circle some options, then I would pick what I wanted. I was always SO jealous when the orders came and there were some kids who would get lots of books and get the free bookmark/tshirt/bag/or whatever from ordering a certain amount. No fair! I WANTED to order more!!!

                    • At 2009.03.18 10:17, Hayden Tompkins said:

                      We couldn’t afford to buy the Scholastic books, but that didn’t stop me from going through the catalog and circling all the one’s I wanted!!

                      • At 2009.03.18 11:18, Gina Goodwin said:

                        Oh, what a flashback you prompted! I l-o-v-e-d when the Shcolastic Book Fair flier came out. Even though the prices were phenomenol (I’m 52, so some of those books were less than a dollar!), with four kids, my parents were on a budget. So, my numerous checkmarks had to be pared down to 1-2 books. But they were an absolute delight for a kid already addicted to reading by second grade. Thanks for that memory! btw–you have the best blogs around…glad to see this new one in addition to CWG.

                        • At 2009.03.18 19:50, natalie said:

                          ohhh, my school was SUPER sneaky about the book fairs. all week long they would be set up during the day and each class could go 1 time and make a wish list. at the end of the week, parents came in for OPEN SCHOOL NIGHT and were presented with our lists and could go shopping. the next morning, we would find whatever our parents bought for us on top of our school desks. i always felt sad for kids who didn’t get any books at all. :c(

                          • At 2009.03.18 12:56, Megan said:

                            Oh, I was so into the Scholastic book pages! And when we would have the book fairs at school? Sweet Jesus — the endless possibilities were overwhelming, and frightening! My parents would give me $10 and I would have the hardest time deciding what to get. I’d come away with two, maybe three new chapter books and be so freaking excited. I can still remember my heart pounding as we walked into the library, or wherever they were holding it in elementary/middle school. Yay!

                            • At 2009.03.18 19:48, natalie said:

                              indeed. with the advent of amazon and instant gratification, it kinda kills it. can you imagine telling a kid he/she has to wait 2 weeks for a book?! ha.

                              • At 2009.03.18 17:20, Connie said:

                                I still have some of my scholastic books…so dog eared and worn from reading and rereading and then our children read them and added their own to the collection…sigh…those were the days my friends!!!!

                                • At 2009.03.18 20:57, Lisa said:

                                  I still have my copy of The Girl With the Silver Eyes! Mine is shelved in my son’s room.

                                  Not only were the books great, but you could get those kitten bookmark and posters.

                                  • At 2009.03.18 21:08, bybee said:

                                    Oh definitely yes…I did a fond reminiscing post about this on my blog maybe 2 or 3 years ago.

                                    • At 2009.03.18 22:07, Jessica said:

                                      Ugh! We could never afford it when I was a kid. Ever so often my mom would let me buy a few of them, but it was rare. But now, Tomas comes home with them every month and we always try to get him something. It is good lit for kids, at an awesome price! And who can say no to their kids reading!

                                      • At 2009.03.18 23:23, Meredith from WhelanFlynn said:

                                        Oh yes, we had those when I was a kid and I live vicariously through my kids now. The first time they came home, I was so excited. I sat them both down with a pen to circle their wishlist, just like I used to do.

                                        However – when I was a wee one, they were just books. Now there are all sorts of bodgy craft/toy options as well, that my kids always want. And I say NO! JUST BOOKS! because I am mean mean mean.

                                        • At 2009.03.19 17:32, Ruth @ Bookish Ruth said:

                                          I adored the Scholastic Book Club. It was so much fun to find the flyer on my desk and even more fun when the books arrived. My friends and I spent hours discussing which books we wanted and why.

                                          • At 2009.03.19 18:13, claire said:

                                            Hi, I stumbled upon your blog through Karen (BookBath). This is such a great post. I grew up in a country without Scholastic. But now, in Canada, with two of my kids in school, I’ve encountered these awesome Scholastic fliers, and I’ve been addicted since my first son stepped into kindergarten. Every month I look forward to it, read it for hours on end (my husband laughs at me for this), and it takes me over a week at least to decide on which books to get, as I always want to get half of all the books listed, haha. I save them afterwards and reread them sometimes. I feel like a nut. But yes, that’s right. (And on a different note, we’re the same age, which is nice to know. :D)

                                            • At 2009.03.19 23:39, Anne said:

                                              What a great memory! I think I had The Babysitter Club books coming in for months when I placed an order in one of those. And the book fair was always so fun! Our school was smart enough to have it on the same weekend as parent-teacher conferences and if I had been good, we’d get to go in and pick a few out. I loved it.

                                              • At 2009.03.21 18:43, Gina Goodwin said:

                                                Natalie,
                                                Thanks for your comment. No, I don’t have a blog…yet. But you may inspire me! I do write for a living–internal communications for a 75,000-employee, global corporation. I’ve thought about a blog, but between my reading addiction and jewelry-making avocation, I would need to carve out some time to be a diligent blogger. But, I must say, again, I do love your blogs!

                                                • At 2009.03.24 10:27, belleofthebooks said:

                                                  Oh the memories! I used to circle all of the books that I wanted, only to be told by mom to pick three. But I was smarter than that… I always managed to get my mom assigned to the book fair as her PTA assignment (don’t ask me how) so, I’d be able to convince her to get plenty more.
                                                  My addiction started young.

                                                  • At 2009.03.29 17:55, Hermie's Mom said:

                                                    My very favorite days in school were library day (often on Friday…double bonus) and the day the book orders arrived. I seem to recall getting 3 leaflets – Scholastic, Troll, and another I can’t recall. My mom either gave me a number of books or a dollar amount as a limit. Oh the decisions!

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