Book Fair At School? Expect Your Kid To Bring Home Everything But Books

Parents, we feel you. If you send your child to a book fair, they'll buy a pencil, an eraser, scented markers, a poster, and slime. If you're lucky, a book. Why maybe that's not so bad after all.

Child looking at a book

Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

"Donuts and chill" the poster said. My daughter held out her school book fair purchases proudly: a sparkly journal, scented markers, a take-apart eraser in the shape of a unicorn. Oh, and a book.

I set up an e-wallet for her to use at the book fair, since her school announced this would be a cashless event. The school communication also stated any leftover funds would go to support the school. But, my 9-year-old proudly informed me, "I let my friend use my last few dollars to buy a book—because I couldn't afford anything else I wanted."

Given my experience with school book fairs (with five kids), this latest scene has played out again and again over the years—I related hard to a parent on Reddit, who recently proclaimed, "PSA: If you give your kids cash for the book fair, expect them to come home with anything and everything except books." My fellow double-crossed conservator hilariously added, "Also. Don't expect change. If they had any, they gave it to their best friend."

In the comments section, parents recounted the items their kids brought home from the school book fair, including non-book tchotchkes such as pricey pencils and erasers, diaries, slime, silly putty, DIY jewelry kits, and stickers.

"Book fairs are a money grab for dollar store pens and erasers and crappy posters," lamented one guardian whose kiddo seemingly skipped over the rows and rows of books at the fair, and headed straight for the check-out kiosk, which is always reliably stocked with eye-catching, non-book options—S'mores-scented erasers! Stackable highlighters! Squishy pals!

While plenty of parents piled on with tales of tots trading in their tender for everything but books, many commenters, particularly teachers and librarians, provided alternate perspectives that gave other Redditors—and me—pause. "Remember, even those little trinkets help raise money for your school's library!" noted one person. "Yes, we want your kiddos to get books, but ultimately it is a fundraiser and whatever they buy is contributing to a worthy cause." The comment was signed, "Sincerely, a school librarian whose book budget comes almost entirely from the book fair."

Although I'm not 100% sold on why stuff other than books is, well, sold at a book fair, I'd be hard-pressed to find a reason why supporting your kids' school is anything other than stellar—even if it means my brood has a bunch of junk lying around our house as a result of almost a decade of shopping at bi-annual book fairs featuring dog posters, fuzzy journals, and dino finger puppets.

But wise wardens of wee ones on Reddit also shared their golden rule of book fairs, which I'll be adopting from this moment on: Their kids can get a tchotchke—as long as they buy a book, too. In fact, parents noted that their children's schools also encourage this guideline for small shoppers. "My child's teacher sends out a slip with what they're allowed to buy. We can check off a box for books only or a box for other things," shared another parent on the topic of how to curb kids cashing in on crap only. (Pardon my French. Frustrated owner of far too much book fair fluff over here.)

"Our [school] switched this year to only having books during the school-day class visits," confided another caregiver, adding, "They had a few journals and stuff available during the family times over the weekend." (Nodding over here with impressed approval.)

Finally, a major theme parents and teachers expressed is, in addition to supporting schools, book fairs offer those of us in the position to dispense dough to our darlings the opportunity to lend a hand to families with less discretionary income. One way to feel better about whatever your kiddo brings home from the fair is to send in a little extra cash for children who won't have money to spend on those book fair days.

Indeed, in a feel-good share, one teacher said in the thread, "We aren't allowed to buy anything for individual students, but I always have a few students who can't afford the book fair. They'll often ask me if I have money they can have for a book or two, and it breaks my heart to say no. Amazingly, I also always have a few parents who send extra money and students will ALWAYS end up offering to buy something for them! I love seeing how generous and kind my students are and truly appreciate those amazing parents who care so much!"

Alright, "donuts and chill" poster. Maybe you're not so bad after all.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles