I just got back from my son's book fair. Normally, the parents would come tonight, during Family Night, but Zack has swimming, so I got permission to come today.
I have wonderful memories of a book fair at my own elementary school -- it's where I scored "The Hobbit", a book I've read and re-read a million times.
But it was an incredibly sad event this time, and I can't get it out of my mind, so I'm going to write about it, and ask you what you think?
In my day, many years ago, we were given a sheet of paper and we wrote down the books we wanted, and that was given to our teacher and subsequently sent home to our parents. Then our parent arrived on Family Night and bought the book. No one bought books AT the fair, only at Family Night, or, if you couldn't make Family Night, you ordered it for later pick-up.
This has all changed, though. Parents got a note home a day ago telling us about the fair, and to send in money if we wanted our child to buy a book during the time frame the kids got to go and look at all the books. They were also told about Family Night.
Here's my problem -- well, there are several.
One, no where on this note were we told the average price of a book. We didn't get a list of books (which, after visiting the fair, I can see why not -- there were a ton of them). So kids arrived with $4, or $6, and of course, found a book they couldn't afford, and had to be told they had to go look for something else. These are Kindergarteners. The majority of them couldn't find the tiny little price on the book, half of them don't understand the value of different denominations of money, none of the books were separated by price, and there was only half an hour to figure out what you could afford -- which, if you've spent ten minutes falling in love with the book and five minutes in line, doesn't give you much of a chance to find anything.
The other problem was that about half of the kids didn't have any money at all. This meant they saw all their friends getting excited and buying a book, and they could only look around, or in the case of one sad little boy, stand in the middle of the room in tears.
Now, I realize that the kids had been told, many times, probably, that it was ok if they didn't buy a book that day, that the book people would set it aside so their parent could get it that night. I realize that even though they're Kindergarteners, they do need to learn about waiting for things. And I realize that Kindergarteners need to understand that life isn't always fair.
But is that something the teacher is supposed to teach? If the family doesn't have the money, that's something the family should be helping the child understand, in their own way, isn't it? And how is it that funding for schools has gotten so BAD that I'm buying glue and crayons for the class (something that is actually fun for me, but still) -- there should be enough money in a school's budget to help parents in need. There SHOULD. These are BOOKS.
When we all got ready to leave, the one little boy was still standing in the middle of the room. He refused to move. He was sad beyond belief, and no matter what the teacher or myself told him, he was just too sad. I've met his parents, and I know they're going to be coming back tonight. But how utterly, completely sad for him to not understand that, and only feel left out.
I really think no one should have been allowed to buy anything, and the book title and price should have been sent home for the parents to purchase later. To me, Kindergarten isn't the place for this kind of "I have more than you have" stuff. At this age, kids have matured at various levels, and some of them just aren't THERE yet, to understand that they weren't left out in a pretty big way.
I am passionate, emotional, and (often) think too deeply into things.
But I just can't get that little boy out of my mind.