Kids, Kindles & the School Book Fair

When I was a little girl in elementary school, one of the things I always looked forward to was the school Book Fair. A week or so before the big day, our  teacher would give us a colorful, newsprint-newsletter, that was filled with pictures of the wonderful books you could buy and a short description of each.

I loved going home, having my snack, and then sitting on the couch and reading about the books. I've always loved to read and I remember how hard it was to narrow down my choices to the 4-5 books I knew would be my limit.

The day of the Book Fair was exciting! It was held after dinner and my mom or dad always took me back to school so I could get my books in person. I can still remember the main doors of the school opening and the hallways filled with big, colorful displays of all the books shown in the newsletter. There were always tons of kids running around, parents mingling and teachers joking with their students. There was a feeling of excitement in the halls and the kids were having a good time. The best part was taking my list and searching for all the books my parents said I could get. Inevitably I would find a few more books I just had to have, and my parents were wonderful about indulging me.

As I was driving home yesterday I passed one of the local schools and saw a billboard about a book fair that was being held. I wondered if the book fairs today were anything like the book fairs I loved so much as a kid? I decided to pop in to check it out and I have to say, I'm sorry that I did.

When I entered the school I was surprised to find so few kids at the event. The books that were displayed were laying flat on 3 folding tables, had obviously seen better days, were not for sale, and were for display purposes only. A half-a-dozen bored teenagers were in charge, and they were so busy texting and chit chatting that they paid little attention to the kids or the few adults that were browsing.

What a disappointment. If a child wanted a book, they had to pay for it, order it and then wait 4-6 weeks for it to be delivered to the school. There were no enticements to get the kids excited about reading. No visually appealing presentations that are so attractive to children at this age. No teachers mingling and encouraging the students to read by pointing out books that they might like.

The thing that really topped it off was when I found out the kids could have have any book they wanted immediately, if they ordered it on their Kindle or other e-reader. WHAT? Sure I have a Kindle, but for kids? This was an elementary school!

Don't our kids spend enough time in front of screens? TV screens, computer screens, little smart phone screens and now e-reader screens? At the very least shouldn't we make them hold a book in their hands? Turn the pages? Feel the textures? Smell the newness? Learn to care for it? Use a bookmark, or better yet, make one? As it is, many schools don't even issue text books anymore. Kids sit in front of a computer at school and then go home and get on-line to do homework.

Our kids are getting cheated in so many ways. I know that we live in a technology driven world, but I think schools, teachers and parents have an obligation to expose our children to some of life's simple things. Things that are not always driven by electronics or technology. Things as simple as a good book and genuine enthusiasm. Things like taking some time to create a fun presentation that is visually appealing to children. Things like encouraging a child to pick up a book, hold it, feel it and maybe even take it home that day.

These aren't big things - these are little things, but they are important things. These are things that are sadly and slowly falling by the waist side as we rush through life, and become more and more reliant on technology, speed and the ease of taking the path of least resistance. I find this frustrating and sad.

Until next time,

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