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May 02, 2006

Comments

Heidi Beattie

Catholic school teachers around the US would love you for this! What a great cause!

John F.

You're right on Amy. I've been disappointed for years in the lack of good or any spiritual, inspiring books. Catholic schools need better! in Hilliard OH.
John F.

suscipe

I've attended these fairs at both public and Catholic schools. No difference in what is offered. Some have had a room for the parents, complete with plenty of questionable offerings.

Also Amy, you have some competition in reviewing the DVC. There are plenty of 8th graders who have written reviews for the Scholastic "Share What You're Reading" pages:
http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/swyar/browseTitle.asp?grade=8&booktitle=The+Da+Vinci+Code .

One writes, "I loved this book, I learned so much about the history of art and religion. It also kept me reading with its suspense. An A+ must read for all!"

Actually, a quick browse of the review pages by age reveals a lot about what kids are reading these days.

John

Let us know if there's anything we can do. Great cause.

Mary Kay

to offer titles specifically chosen for Catholic schools....

Sounds like it should be a no-brainer.

KH

Now, I'm not 100% if our grammar school's book fair is Scholastic, but maybe 98% sure? And the offerings are usually incredibly mediocre. This year, Sr. Principal was so...unimpressed...with the precocious pre-teen hipster vibe that she collected a few titles, and their advertising posters, and hid them. (I helped and yeah, I hid the teen Left Behind books, too. I <3 censorship ;-).

I've asked for more classics, and I even wrote out a list, with authors. They threw me a bone and added a precious few, but they still want to promote their contemporary silly stuff. Probably so you can chuck it, since you'll never want to reread it, and buy the next cool one next year. Just like the kids do with all those stupid feather pen and shaped erasers that don't work.

They did offer one neat book on the life of JPII. That and a similar book on Ronald Reagan. I made sure to buy both.

Now, this particular school does have a full set of the Prove It books - graciously signed by the author! - and the bible-with-teen-commentary. I made sure of that.

Ian

Our bookstore has attempted to offer our local Catholic schools an alternative to Scholastic for this very reason. Of the five Catholic grade schools in our city, one never returned calls after months of attempts, two flat out said no and two gave us a corner in conjunction with Scholastic.

The Catholic schools in general are like the rest of the Church - they don't realize that if you don't promote the Faith that kids are going to get their influences from the secular culture.

We would still like to create a Catholic alternative to Scholastic but it is going to be a long, hard road.

Ian

Another thought - Getting Scholastic to toss in a few Catholic options is not going to work. Scholastic, like Amazon, has no idea what Catholic means.

And even if you could get a few Catholic titles sprinkled in, you would still be left with Goosebumps and all the crap that goes for kids lit these days.

ann

Judging from the current bookfairs at our parish grade school, Scholastic has not improved - actually, I think the offerings have become less than mediocre. When I volunteered at our school library over 15 years ago, I remember we'd pull books from the book fair display which were entirely unsuitable, especially for a Catholic School. Efforts to look into other ways to produce a book fair using Catholic publications never got very far. I call it taking the path of least resistance: These publishers make a book fair pretty easy to set up (books come already shelved in cases) and allow money to be raised from the sales for the school library.

Lisa C

Not only do I not remember any Catholic books, but they keep putting out Goosebumps books and some others which I really think don't belong in a Catholic school.

anne

My children are now in college, but they attended various Catholic schools in several states. I often worked at the book fairs. (And hid the Goosebumps,etc.) My experience was the same as Ann and Lisa C above. Some years we didn't purchase any books. Good luck, Amy. Let us know if we can help. My friends and sisters have young children.

Ken

...plus a couple of volumes in the Left Behind series tailored for teens. Yikes!

You mean you've never heard of Left Behind: the Kids? After the 8 (or was it 9) volume series (approaching even "Slave Girls of Gor" for obsessively-chronicled never-ending series) and the new prequel trilogy (aka "AntiChrist's baby pictures"), they had to keep the franchise going somehow!

Next step: Left Behind: for Pets.

scotch meg

Scholastic has gone downhill generally. Back in the day (YIKES - 40 years ago!), even a literary snob of a kid could satisfy hunger for books through Scholastic. My first exposure to Dickens, Hawthorne, and many, many other classics came through those little order sheets.
Alas, the last few years my kids were in school there was nothing, and I mean NOTHING, I was willing to pay for. And those were the years when I had kindergarten to 8th grade kids.
Perhaps the Narnia and LOTR crazes have helped a little bit.
But I don't think so -- one of my friends has finally succeeded in persuading the local parochial school to allow the Daughters of St. Paul to bring in a supplemental table for the book fair so that there will be some Catholic books.
Amy, anything you can do would be a blessing to the many parents whose schools just don't get it.

Colleen

I used to run the "Scholastic" and "Troll" school book fairs in my area's elementary and middle school (public). I don't believe there is one at the high school level.

With Troll, we would go to the local Troll warehouse and basically pick out the titles we wanted and order the number we guessed we would need. Scholastic is all done via computer or telephone call - they ship what you ask for but mostly have a generic busload full of books that are pre-determined and so it is easy to deliver and set up.

The book fair companies are very competetive so my guess is you can tell the companies what you are looking for and they will do their darndest to find the titles for you - if you sign the contract.

Parents buy the largest amount of books, particularly those volunteering their time - so don't forget titles for them! I am thinking of the Compendium just published. Most/Many parents come and browse so that when jr. comes home with the order form to be filled for him when his class goes to the fair, he already knows what he'll be buying. Most of the time Scholastic, Troll, etc., has a pre printed newspaper that goes home with the kid and the order form... so anything not in the newspaper would have to be put together by a volunteer and sent home. In these days of computers and 'daisy chained' parent e-mails (for no school announcements, etc), I suppose one could put together an attachment with the offerings (using a digital cam possibly since visual is better) and sent it home via e-mail with the school office permission.

I don't know of book fairs at the high school level - too bad since that is when most of the required reading is done. Wouldn't it be nice to supplant the Catholic school required "Joshua" by Girzone with other offerings?

Boy, I wished I lived near you because I am extremely interested in raising the level of currently accepted reading for kids, especially in the Catholic schools. There are so few Catholic bookstores so most Catholics have no idea the reading feast that is available to them!

Ian

Isn't it sad that in a CATHOLIC school, CATHOLIC books have to play second fiddle to a secular publisher that sells things antithetical to the Faith? What is wrong with our Church?

Martin

My wife and I have gnashed our teeth at the catalog and book fair offerings from Scholastic. Even if they add good books they still have the crud they offer. Please if anyone knows of a better line of books email me ....more power to you Amy. I'll be watching for follow up.

Colleen

Ian, it's all about the money. The school gets a cut and they also get free books for the library.

It'd take a lot of resources (time and money) to change the way business is done, plus people (usually the PTO, same people year after year, same type of personalities that are attached to the parish volunteer ministries) think 'scholastic' or 'troll' automatically and it takes a lot to convince them to think outside the 'easy' box. I'd guess this would have to start with a couple of the bigger Catholic publishing houses and go from there.

Brigid

My parish uses this program:

http://www.catholicreadingsociety.com/RC_gps.shtml

Lots of good Catholic books and magazines, IMHO. Not perfect but it does work esp. for a parish with a school.

We order extra books at certain times of the year for sales to kids in the parish and in the school. We find it's a great resource for the parents of these kids.

BUT, there's work involved and someone has to be willing to cull through all the offerings and choose what is best.

Also, I don't think the school makes as much money as they do through Scholastic.

But something does exist for Catholic schools to use. It may not be perfect but it does exist.

Dan

Scholastic sells a series, called Guardians of Ga'Hoole, that in my opinion is inspired by anti-Catholicism. In the first book, "The Capture," a young Barn Owl named Soren lives peacefully with his family, but falls from his nest and is captured by evil owls and taken to the St. Aegolius Academy (aka "St. Aggie's") for Orphaned Owls. As I recall it, at St. Aggie's the evil owls teach humility and service as a means of brainwashing (I don't have the book with me but I recall that the evil owls teach a song or poem that advocates certain Christian values (not identified as such)). The kidnapped owl who is the hero of the story must learn to fly to liberate himself from the evil owls that run St. Aggie's.

I have not read "The Capture" in its entirety and, judging from the plot descriptions that I have read, it does not sound as though the entire book is an anti-Catholic screed. Still, the the description of "St. Aggie's" strongly suggests anti-Catholicism. This is corroborated by another book that the author of this series, Kathryn Lasky, has written. It is called "Secret Blood." The following is from a "School Library Journal" summary of the book:

"Since her mother disappeared from a campground several years before, 14-year-old Jerry has lived in various Catholic Charities homes. The trauma of her experiences has left her with selective mutism. Although she wants to speak, she just can't get the words that form in her throat to come out. Now, she is going to live in New Mexico with her great-great-aunt, Constanza de Luna. After settling in and beginning school, Jerry discovers an old trunk in her aunt's basement. The mysterious objects within it seem to call to her, and each time she handles one of them, she is catapulted into her family's past. Brief vignettes describe the experiences of several of her ancestors, beginning with Miriam, a Jewish girl living in Seville in 1391 who witnesses the murder of her people and is baptized by force. Jerry, who has been raised Catholic, comes to realize that her ancestors were Jews, and she is upset by their heart-wrenching tales of religious persecution."

I found out about all this when one of my children brought home "The Capture" from school (he attends a Catholic school) and I flipped through it. I thought about complaining, but just let it drop. I understand that Warner Bros. is now making a film out of the owl series.

stunted

Off-topic thanks to Scotch Mom for the laugh! Back in my day (30 years ago) I was the non-literary child of a literary snob, seriously addicted to The Hardy Boys. Her response - 'if you're going to read that junk, you're going to earn it first.' My books went on top of the refridgerator, and she would hand me one of hers, starting with Le Morte D'Arthur. In this way, I read A Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, Hard Times, Paradise Lost, Les Miserables, Madame Bovary, Portrait of a Lady, Merchant of Venice, (AND all the Hardy Boys books) etc, etc, before I entered high school. My biggest complaint with children's literature is that even the 'good stuff' which is so hard to find seems 'dumbed down'. My five year old agrees. Books appropriate to his skill level are 'boring', he's much more interested in having me read books for 'older' kids to him. Aargh.

Ian

We looked at the Scholastic program and offered the schools a comparable program. The two schools that let us come opted for a straight commission with no free books for the library or classes.

Dennis Egan

Instead of trying to fight the "Scholastic City Hall", you may wish to know that there is a Catholic alternative to Scholastic called "The Angel Book Club", run by two great RC's -Joseph and Leane Ambrosio of Petaluma, California. You may be familiar with their catalog "Catholic Child", www.catholicchild.com. Joseph can be reached at 707-765-1645.
On a related topic, my wife laments that the library program our Catholic school uses to encourage students to read called "Accelerated Reader" does not list any Catholic books. Upon completing a book, students take an Accelerated Reader computer test and depending on it's level of difficulty, are awarded points,for which they receive recognition medals at the end of the period if they reach a targeted cumulative goal. Maybe someone out there can design a library software program similar to Accelerated Reader for Catholic schools?

Dennis Egan

Ken

Ian, it's all about the money. The school gets a cut and they also get free books for the library.

Part of me wants to try to see if I could get Da Vinci Code, Dianetics, and The Necronomicon into Catholic school libraries using the same trick.

And part of me doesn't want to know.

Christine B

It's true that many school staff or volunteers working on PTO/PTA's are unaware that there are book fair alternatives available to them. I work for a competitor of Scholastic, and I hear horror story after another about lousy customer service, poor variety in student selections and in what the school receives, too much extra "junk" that is non-reading material... While my company is not Catholic, or even religious, we do offer several "Bible stories" types of books- sorry nothing about the Saints. However, we do go the extra mile to cater to the customer's beliefs. I am Catholic, and while I have conducted successful book fairs for my parish and for parochial schools, I have also done so for secular, Jewish, fundamentalist groups, while remaining sensitive to their particular beliefs. Scholastic doesn't seem to attempt do that.

What's more, what Scholastic offers to the hosting organization pales in comparison to what competitors offer. My company offers 50% in books, 30% in cash or a combination thereof for book fairs. We also sponsor a reading incentive where 110% is collected money is then returned to the school in books to encourage further reading. School personnel that I approach have been so jaded, for lack of a better word, by Scholastic that what
I offer seems too good to be true.

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