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Re-Imagining the Book Fair

Sep 27, 2017, 10:53 AM

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PTA dad and Children’s Bookstore Owner, Jake Ball, helps his toddler avoid petty theft while overhauling the book fair experience for the modern parent (and  PTAs, too).

True story: This spring, I was at our school’s book fair with the whole family. It all started well enough.

Not-So-Optimal Book Fair Outcome

Unfortunately, the trip ended with me hauling my screaming 4 year-old out of the library because they had no copies of the Frozen book she wanted. My toddler managed to push about 40 books off a table that was also crammed with novelty erasers, key chains, and other junk. (Upon returning home, we found one such key chain in my daughter’s still-clenched fist that we had not paid for.)

Meanwhile my wife had to stay behind at the fair for a quite a while after I left, waiting in a long line to check out and pay for the books my older kids had chosen.

Fun times.

Why does a book fair sell key chains, erasers, etc.?  Isn’t a book fair intended to find great books and encourage reading? All the non-book stuff distracts kids, and redirects Mom and Dad’s money to trinkets that don’t promote reading.

As a “PTA dad” to four kids (ranging from a toddler to a fifth-grader) with an unshakeable love of books, I support school book fairs— with the tears, inadvertently stolen merchandise, and long volunteer hours—because it puts critical dollars into the school and my kids get more books for their ever-growing stockpile. (I own Children’s Bookstore, you can imagine that we have a silly number of books all over the house.)

But, isn’t it high time that the traditional book fair be re-imagined for the modern age?

Why not “attend” the book fair when you want, even if it’s at home in your jammies?  What if the book fair offered only top-notch books and none of the junky stuff?

If that sounds like a borderline sales pitch, that’s because it is. Children’s Bookstore has launched 100% online book fairs (real books, virtual fair). PTAs are signing up for these online book fairs because:

  • Schools and PTAs earn 30% of every book purchase. At the end of the fair, we send a check. Not “credits.” Real money. Use it for whatever your school or PTA needs. (If you want to buy books with it, we’d love to help.)
  • There are more than 200,000 excellent, titles available. Reluctant reader? Advanced reader? Only likes truck books? We have great books for every kind of reader, for all ages of kids. And yes – we carry Scholastic** books, too.
  • Anyone in the U.S. can buy books at your online book fair. Aunt Sarah in Phoenix can support little Johnny’s book fair in Atlanta with a few clicks.
  • An online book fair can be held any time. For example, you can capture the holiday book buying season with a book fair between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • There are no minimum buy requirements and no hidden fees. Really.
  • An online book fair can be set up in less than ten minutes.
Far-More-Optimal Book Fair Outcome

Far-More-Optimal Book Fair Outcome

One volunteer can manage the entire book fair with about 3 hours of their time over a 3-5 week period. We have taken all the time-consuming tasks out of the conventional book fair and, hopefully, made life easier for schools and PTAs. We ship books straight to the buyer’s home—there’s no need to sort book orders or handle inventory.

There might be reluctance to change years of habits for book fairs. If that’s the case, you can try doing one online book fair in addition to your conventional book fair.

Schools typically reach an entirely new audience through online book fairs and raise funds that would have otherwise been missed.

My goal as a father is to create meaningful literacy experiences for my own children. My goal with Children’s Bookstore is to connect kids with books they will read and cherish.  By offering the best in juvenile literature—without the distractions of key chains and the like, I hope to reach both goals for my family and yours.

If you aren’t the volunteer parent who runs your book fair, consider scheduling an intervention with the person who does. Please share this post with your fellow PTA parents – let’s start a movement here.

Meanwhile, if you find yourself at a book fair hastily picking up an entire box of SpongeBob erasers that your three year old knocked over while calmly explaining to your tearful eight year old that they seem to be out of the most recent Origami Yoda book, you have my sympathies.

Click here to learn more about online book fairs, or to start your own online book fair today.

** Scholastic is trademark of Scholastic Corp. is not in any way affiliated with or endorsed by Scholastic.


Guest Blogger Jake Ball is the founder of Children’s Bookstore. He started Children’s Bookstore as a truly independent bookstore that is 100% dedicated to juvenile literature. provides online book fairs to schools, libraries and youth groups of all kinds. Jake and his wife have four children and reside in Meridian, Idaho, between their school and a large corn field.

Children’s Bookstore is a financial sponsor of National PTA and has been invited to submit a series of blog posts as part of their engagement with PTA.