Scholastic Book Clubs of our Childhood, We Miss You So

In younger grades, school was pretty cool. Lots of imagination, artwork, and having your teacher read aloud to you. (Seriously, if I could get someone to read to me while I relax on a cushion, I would be a happy grownup.) But some days in elementary school stood out above all others — and those were Scholastic Book Fair days.

Remember Scholastic Book Club? How could you forget. All of your favorite books and book-related accoutrements were laid out in front of you in a tabloid splash of colors. And then, things would get even better. Scholastic would pack up all of those books and book-related items and come to your school. You'd get out of class that day to shop in the library.

It was the best.

When I was a kid, we'd all get the Scholastic Book Club fliers about a week ahead of time to go home and confer with our parents. When the teacher passed out those fliers, we would seriously study it to make sure we weren't missing out on anything. Would I rather get. the package of books centered on summer camp on the scary book package? A new Baby-Sitters Club book? Circle it twice. A National Geographic special on manatees? Are you kidding? Manatees are the best.

Then came the day. The class would line up outside our school library at our scheduled time, giddy with anticipation. We'd all have our fliers on us, using them as roadmaps to most effectively navigate the shelves and grab the must-haves. But soon, everyone was overwhelmed by the choices around us. Nobody said there were going to be posters of monkeys and polar bears. And bookmarks! Hundreds and hundreds of bookmarks of all colors.

Of course I didn't know at the time that these books were selected because they were all (duh) published by Scholastic. But can you really blame them? If Little, Brown or Candlewick wanted to come to my school with all the books I could ever want, I would have bought all those, too.

Scholastic has also recently been criticized as marketing to children — particularly with many books these days from all publishers having strong media tie-ins and accompanying digital media, which can be pushed more than books are.

This wasn't a problem back when I was a kid, because when I was in elementary school we didn't even really do computers yet — except to play Oregon Trail and use CD-ROM encyclopedias for fun, so we didn't have to worry about "digital content" taking over the Scholastic Book Club. It really was devoted to books and book accessories, like erasers shaped like dinosaurs and journals with cute sayings on them. Once, just once, I was allowed to use some of my cash to get a poster of two golden retriever puppies. But that was the extent of it.

In the spirit of research, I scouted out my old elementary school and found the Scholastic Book Club webpage for my old fifth grade teacher's class (sorry for stalking, Mrs. Warner). I have never wanted to have a grade-school-aged child this much before. Strike that, I have never wanted to go back to grade school more.

Searching through these webpages gave me the same giddy excitement I had waiting in line before being let loose in the library to grab all the books I could, in the sensible budget my mother allowed me.

Take, for example, this gem directed at fifth graders: 5th Grade Award Winners Mega Pack ($20).

I cannot stress enough what a steal this is. Shiloh? Hatchet?The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle? And there's even more?

I'm also psyched to tell you that Goosebumps is still listed as one of the top-selling series for fifth graders. We've carried on the legacy well, grown-ups.

But fifth graders don't have all the fun.

An Amelia Bedelia book for $4? How can I sign up to attend one of these Scholastic Book Fairs? While I'm there, I can grab Judy Moody, too.

And by now, I'm completely sucked back in, Scholastic.

You guys, how did insects change history?

And this cover would have made me buy it immediately, even today:

For all of the controversy pointed at Scholastic for marketing to children, at least they don't shy away from diverse books aimed at children along the way. The fourth grade mega-pack includes Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

Many other packs include books by men and women, and authors of diverse backgrounds.

Considering that just perusing the website made me want to purchase dozens of books for the children I do not have, I think its safe to say that the spirit of the Scholastic Book Club is still alive and well. Now if only I didn't have to wait until I knew an elementary schooler to get in on the excitement again.

Image: Fotolia; Scholastic