Being in school 5 days a week is kind of like having a full time job, only instead of getting paid in money, you have to sit there and learn.
You get sent home with homework, you have to write book reports, you have tests and presentations and all of it is a lot of effort for a growing brain.
But there was a place, one beautiful reprieve from our tortuous experience where we could feel at peace. That place was the Scholastic Book Fair.
Once a year our schools would treat us by bringing the book orders to life. We didn't have to just look at that paper catalog and try and guess whether or not we would like the books, we could actually open them up and see how we liked it.
Not only that, but we could see the wonderful bookmarks, the excellent pencils, and don't forget those glorious erasers.
There were a lot of amazing things about the book fair, let's reminisce.
1. The Smell
There are few things that smell quite as good as a new book. The only thing better is a room full of new books.
Having stacks upon stacks of books lining the walls of either your school library, gym, or whatever room your school used was like walking into nirvana.
Everything was so fresh, so clean, and so organized. The stacks of beautiful, glossy books were all so satisfying to flip through.
Whether you were a younger kid looking through some of the picture books, or an older kid trying to pick out a good novel to read that could keep your attention, every pile felt like a mound of treasure.
2. The Books
What kind of books did you want? Whimsical poems? Shell Silverstein is on the table by the door. Nonsensical stories? Dr. Seuss's entire collection is on the one in the middle. Spooky stories to keep you up at night? Check out the newest Goosebumps books on the shelf at the back.
There was something for everyone at the book fair. You could get in on the ground floor of a book series that was just starting, or you could jump into one of the established series that will give you dozens of books to catch up on.
Whether you choose to go for a classic like "Little House on the Prairie," something new like "The Saddle Club," or both, there was always something to try out.
3. The Extras
Personally, we didn't have a lot of money growing up so events like the book fair were kind of bitter sweet. I didn't always just to bring in a bunch of money to pick out new books, and instead would just have my birthday money that I had saved up.
But books are expensive so it wasn't likely going to go very far. Instead, I would use that money to buy myself some bookmarks.
Bookmarks are great because they can just go with you no matter what book you are reading, even if it is a library book.
You get to pick something that is based on whatever you are obsessed with at the moment (I believe my favorite one was a Garfield bookmark) and then it's like a little reminder of your favorite things when you open it up to read.
Five dollars may not buy you the book you wanted, but you could probably get two bookmarks AND a cool pencil with a fancy eraser on the end of it. I don't know about you but that seems like a good option!
4. The Posters
While they may have been a pain to get back to your house, buying a poster at the book fair was kind of a right of passage.
You would pick which ever poster was your favorite and that was fine, but then you had to spend the rest of the day struggling to keep it from folding.
Sure, they rolled it up for you, but if you press too hard you're going to end up with big creases all over it.
You couldn't put it in your backpack, if you had a locker you probably had it full of other stuff, and if not, you had to awkwardly balance it beside your desk.
Then you had to actually get home. Are you walking, taking the bus, or are your parents picking you up? Because only one of those is safe.
If you walk, the wind is going to catch it a thousand times causing it to get a bunch of weird bends in it.
If you bus, people are going to ask you which one you bought and force you to unroll it, which will probably result in some folds.
You would just have to hope you could get mom or dad to come pick you up, and have them take responsibility for it until you get home. Then at least you could blame them for any folds in the paper.
5. The Independence
I think by far the best part about the book fair was having the freedom to choose any books you wanted.
You didn't have to have your parents following you around, or peeking over your shoulder, asking which books you wanted. You were alone with your thoughts, and got to make some decisions you may not have made while they were there.
They might push you to read another book in the series you've already been reading because they know you will like that, but sometimes you just want something new.
Even though you may end up hating it and have completely wasted the allowance you had been saving up for months, it's worth it because sometimes you'll find a new favorite.
Even the president of the Scholastic Book Fairs, Alan Boyko, agrees. “The difference between a dormant reader and an engaged, enthusiastic reader is access to great books and a lot of time spent reading self-chosen books. Scholastic Book Fairs are really a lifeline to book ownership.”
The book fair will always be one of the best experiences any of us had in elementary school, even if we never got to buy a book. Who agrees with me?
As for what we purchased at the book fairs, we all had our preferences. I was always partial to the Garfield books, but as it turns out, there were a lot of things that none of us knew about him!
The Baby-Sitter's Club was always a solid choice if you needed a classic, it always seemed like there was so much consideration put into all of these books, and even after reading them so much there was a lot we didn't pick up on.
Sure, some of them had some pretty insane plots, especially Sweet Valley High, but we still loved them.
Some of the books we got absolutely freaked us right out, I'm looking at you V.C. Andrews, your books are terrifying.
But all in all, there were so many books that we just loved so much and would absolutely go to another book fair if we could.