Fall is a busy time at elementary schools. Harvest festivals, Halloween, parent-teacher conferences and....the dreaded book fair.
That's the week where the school entrance is stacked with books that children can purchase, and each class is escorted to the book fair with envelopes of cash that their parents have lovingly provided. The kids love it but that can't be said for the parents.
Most moms can't stand the whole thing.
There is a whole host of reasons; toys are also offered, they are of course strategically placed near the cash registers. The books are not cheap and can't be returned even if they have just been purchased. And often, parents forget to give their kids any money which means they either look like they don’t have any, or sponge off their pals who suddenly become like a rapper at a strip club making it rain with bills.
"They don't sell books," groused Stephanie, a lawyer with a fourth and second grader on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. "It's all commercial crap. I sent my daughter in last year with $30 and told her not to come back with anything that is a TV character or a toy and nothing with the face of a small animal on it. She came back with both and no proper book."
"It just makes me angry," she continued. "Since the kids are a captive audience and everyone is made to feel guilty since it supports the school."
Carol, a stay-at-home mom with three young daughters thinks the book fair shines an unwelcome spotlight on who has cash and who doesn't.
"Some kids bring quite large sums of money, too much for them to manage," she explained. "Some kids bring a lot less or nothing so there is no consistency among their purchasing power. That must be weird for them in a way. Also kids make terrible decisions which doesn't matter in a public library but matters more with spending money for books."
And the schools are sneaky. The book fairs usually coincide with parent-teacher conferences so not only are the kids forced to walk through the jungle of books every day for a week, their parents will also be forced to walk through it at least once. It's the equivalent of supermarkets putting the milk and eggs at the back of the store so you're forced to walk down the junk food aisle to get them.
Of course you could be a grinch and not send your kid in with any cash but who wants to be branded the mean mom?
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