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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Where does lip gloss = reading? In Book Clubs.

February 17, 2009

Do you know about the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood's (CCFC) Put the Book Back in Book Club campaign? It was motivated by the monthly fliers from Scholastic Book Club.

According to CCFC, one-third of the items for sale in recent elementary and middle school fliers are either not books or are books packaged with other items such as jewelry and toys. The CCFC would like parents and teachers to contact Scholastic and let them know the message: Put the book back in your book club.

"The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is a privilege, not a right," said CCFC's director, Dr. Susan Linn. "Schools grant Scholastic unique commercial access to children because of its reputation as an educational publisher. But Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms across the country with ads for toys, trinkets, and electronic media with little or no educational value."

In an interview with the New York Times, Judy Newman, President of Scholastic Book Clubs, defends every product in the book club fliers.

According to Ms. Newman, some children might be drawn to a book because it comes with a sticker or a poster, but that that doesn't mean that they're not reading. She added that even a product like a make-your-own-jewelry kit would have a reading component in the instructions.

Talk about an issue with several sides! And we're just talking about those monthly fliers. School book fairs are another topic altogether (maybe next week?)

As a teacher, I used book clubs. They were an easy way to earn points towards books for my classroom library. Sometimes an order would come with a poster or stickers that I could use in my room. And because the prices were good (some books as low as $0.99) I felt as though I was offering my families an inexpensive way to build their home library.

As a Mom, both my girls bring home order forms each month. They circle what they want, we "negotiate our way" through the junk, and we usually place an order for a handful of books.

My kids have learned that we don't order books about TV shows, and we don't order jewelry or lip gloss or any of the other trinkets. In some ways, the discussions we have about what we don't order are as instructive as the discussions about what we do order.

What's your opinion of the products in book club fliers? Too many? Too few? Should they stay, or should they go?



I get my son to circle all the books he is interested in and then we go to the library and find as many as possible and then he can choose which one he would like to buy from bookclub this helps to reduce the list.

I agree that toys have no place in the book order. I have a "no toy-book" rule for my children. If they want to order a book, I'll pay for it, but if they want a book that comes with a toy, they have to use their own money. Nine times out of ten, the books that come with a toy are not good-quality reading. I'd much rather see them get excited about a new story than some piece of junk toy.

How did you get the no books about tv show rule? My kids are always drawn to these books, even for shows they haven't seen and sometimes it drives me to "lose" the order sheets! I agree, there are a lot of unecessary and annoying things in these orders. We do love inexpensive books though, and there are always some good ones!

I completely agree with the campaign. As a librarian, public school supporter and parent, it was a real shock for me to see how the Weekly Reader has changed since I was a customer/student. I don't mind parenting my child and setting limits but every day I see parents who don't. I completely support taking the junk out of the book order and keeping it just books!

I teach Gr. 2 and find that when the Scholastic Book Fair comes to our school a lot of $$ are spent on the junk. I support this campaign and will pass the message along.

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"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln