Friday, February 13, 2009

Books and Toys

I read a blog post on recently about those Scholastic Book Club flyers that some schools hand out. Yep, those same newsprint sheets that we got in elementary school back in the "good old days".

A Boston-based group reviewed the flyers and concluded that they’re full of toys. Well, that for the series they examined, 14 percent of the items offered for sale were not books, and 19 percent were books packaged with other items. Apparently they found this to be a problem.

My kids’ preschool hands out the same Scholastic flyers every so often, and we almost always buy something (usually, many somethings). Now, we get a slightly different series than the one reviewed—I think that was for 2nd graders—but our flyers also have an assortment of "non-books".

I’ve never found anything to complain about. They’re not selling guns and candy. The "non-book" items are frequently flashcards, art kits, kits that include small models (like dinosaurs or bugs). And honestly, my husband and I control all purchasing from the pamphlets, so there is no opportunity for Charlotte to blow all her cash on stickers. Not that she has cash to blow just yet. She’s only 4.

Have I ever bought any of the "non-book" items? Just last month. I got a pack of Valentines Day books that came with a rolling stamper (with 4 different colored stampers). Charlotte loved it. So much that she roller-stamped the walls (and then had to clean them). Guess I need to get that back out again tonight for her to work on Valentines cards for her school party. Wall washing aside, it was a nice little packet—4 or 5 books plus the stamper for around $10.

I think Scholastic is doing a fine job, and if they’re making money on the deal, that’s wonderful! I find it incredibly convenient to buy their books. There are usually 1-2 items per flyer for only $1 each (I usually buy these, plus other stuff). I love shopping in bookstores too, but the bookstores tend to carry more hardbacks. And while the hardbacks are nicer quality, I love the quantity and variety that buying all the little paperbacks affords us. And their packs introduce us to authors and series that I might not have chosen individually.

Each of our children has a bookcase overflowing with books (we’re talking 100’s, not even counting all of the early readers Charlotte just inherited from her "little aunt"), and they request to read more every night than we ever have time for. That doesn’t mean that we buy more than we read—but if you don’t cut them off, they’ll request to read every book in the place. Annoying as it is when you really just want the kid to sleep, I love that. I’m a huge reader, and we’re rearing two huge readers. That’s a good thing.

If selling a few educational trinkets helps entice a kid to read, what’s the harm?


Bethany said...

I love those reader handouts. Such good memories from my childhood being able to pick out a book of my own... And they have age appropriate books. The middle school I worked at sent them home as well and, whenever I would see one (rare, because the kids actually kept track of them) I couldn't help but glance through and see if anything interested me (inevitably something did). Every time I see a scholastic handout i have a happy little thrill, like seeing an ice cream truck drive by.

Congratulations on your readers. You're doing a great job.

Tyler Reed said...

Thanks for the good words about Scholastic Book Clubs, Kristi!

I've always thought that the "experience" of reading a book shouldn't end when you finish the last page -- and having stuff like stickers or posters or online games and websites connected with books only enhances the story and makes it live on. Why not offer that to kids?

Also, there are many kids who (like yours!) devour books, and will definitely grow up to be avid readers. But unfortunately there are thousands, if not millions, of kids out there who struggle to read and would much much rather play video games than ever pick up a book. You've got to find a way to hook them on books, and you're not going to do that all the time with classic literature. You've gotta get them reading something -- anything! -- and then maybe they'll start to see how fun reading can be.

Keep up the great blogging!

--Tyler Reed
Scholastic Inc.