I haven't posted this past week because I was busy running my school's book fair. With the elevator out of order and the library on the 3rd floor, it was doubly difficult to get the whole thing organized. Now that we've finished up, I have some observations and comparisons to fairs I've held in other schools. Thus the title of this post.
When I lived in West Hartford, CT, I worked as a parent volunteer at my children's elementary school. We consistently sold around $10,000 worth of books, etc. thanks to the fact that parents valued reading and had money to spend on books. In 2001-2003, I worked at an inner-city school in Hartford, CT, where the demographics were 100% Hispanic (primarily Puerto Rican), 100% poverty-level, 65% special ed, and 50% bilingual. Not surprisingly, our Book Fair proceeds were below $1500. It didn't help that most parents (generally teen or early 20s) had bad school experiences and were uncomfortable being at their children's school. They also had little to no money to spend on books, even if they did value them (which didn't seem to be the case).
Fast forward to the latter half of the decade, and I was now librarian in an elementary school in West Plano, TX. Thanks to a very active PTA, high socio-economic status, and a clear understanding of the value of reading, we sold no less than $22,000 (yes, 3 zeros) each fair. So, you can well imagine how I felt when this year's sale (in an inner-city Dallas middle school) was considered successful with sales of only $2400. All I could think of was how hard my student volunteers and I had worked to run the fair and how little return for our time we realized.
I had much time to think about this while I manned the cash register this week, and it just saddens me to think of how the schools in wealthier neighborhoods are raking in the money (so they can buy even more new books for their already well-stocked libraries) while the schools in poorer neighborhoods raise next to nothing. There has to be a better solution, but I've yet to come up with one. While in Plano, we donated a 3rd of our proceeds to a sister school on the east side of the city, but I don't think that's an option in Dallas. Wouldn't it be great if Scholastic (since they make so much on these sales) would spearhead a program whereby schools with high-grossing fairs could designate a "sister" school in another district (or their own) to automatically receive matching funds? Nice dream for now, but it could be a reality someday. I'll have to think about it...