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School book fairs retain popularity

Trends in products are changing with the times

POSTED: March 29, 2009 9:54 p.m.
BRANDEE A. THOMAS/The Times

Katie Sarlouis helps her son, Ted, pick out a book recently at the Jefferson Elementary School book fair. Some media specialists agree that book fairs still draw much excitement from parents and students alike. But many also have noticed a change in the type of products being sold.

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JEFFERSON — Many adults can remember the excitement they felt when it was book fair time at school.

They can still remember the thrill of clutching a few crumpled bills as they perused the stacks of books available for purchase.

Well, according to some local media specialists, that excitement hasn’t slackened over the years.

"Our kids really have an interest in reading," said Marion Stem, Jefferson Academy media specialist. "We see them coming into the library on a continuing basis to check out books and when we have the book fair they are here buying books."

Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy the book fairs; parents also enjoy helping their children pick out books at the annual events.

"(My son, Ted,) really loves reading, so I do what I can to encourage it," said Katie Sarlouis, while helping her son pick out books recently at the Jefferson Elementary School book fair.

Although the book fair concept has remained the same, the products being supplied by the book fair companies have changed.

"There seems to be a lot more gimmicks with the books," said Karen Porter, Jefferson Elementary School media specialist. "There are more stuffed animals, toys, pencils and other things with the books than there used to be."

Porter isn’t alone in noticing the trend.

"Over the years, the book fair companies have started sending a lot more things with the books, but I don’t put out the things that aren’t educationally oriented," Stem said.

As the years change, so do the hot books that children are looking for. In the early ’90s, books featuring the character Ramona Quimby created by children’s author Beverly Cleary were very popular. Several years ago, Pokemon books were the hot item. These days, the popular books are the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series and books based on the Bakugan cartoons, Porter and Stem said.

In addition to building their personal library, Jefferson Elementary students also can help their teachers bring more books into their classrooms.

"Each of our teachers makes a wish list and the students can buy one of the books from the list and put it in their teacher’s wish list bag at the book fair," Porter said. "When they purchase the book, we give them a sticker so they can write who the book is from. Years down the line, it’s nice for the teachers to open up the books and see who it’s from; it’s really a nice keepsake for the classroom."

School book fairs also serve as a fundraiser for the individual school’s media center. In addition to getting a percentage of the sales from the book fair, media centers also get credits for free books from the book fair company.

"We use the funds to support literature and technology needs at our school. We try to use the funds to sponsor a visit from an author and to support a program we started called One School, One Book," Stem said.

"With that program, we pick one book for the school to read. We then invite the students to come to the media center with their lunch groups and they get to discuss the book with different grade levels. It really brought us together as a school and we look forward to doing it again next school year."



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