what happened at ‘that’ school, part 2: setting up a scholastic book club

Last year we sent our son to a school in special measures, then this summer I blogged about how it had gone, intending it to be the first of a mini-series.

Errr…here I am, with the second installment, nearly three months later. NINETY FLIPPIN’ DAYS. Oops. Regular readers will know that this blog has gone a bit haywire recently, so if you need a recap, click on the above links then hopefully the following will make more sense.

One thing I may have mentioned in passing is that, soon after my son started school, I became a parent governor. It wasn’t something I intended – I thought governors did the boring paperwork, and I wanted to be more hands-on – but, after observing that parental involvement in school life was – let’s be kind – not that great, and after hearing the Chair of Governors say that the role they were looking to fill on Governing Body was that of being a link between parents and the school – well, I couldn’t say a quick enough ‘yes’.

In my role I’ve organised parent forums, socials, a toy donation day, and a school disco; I’ve set up second-hand uniform sales and ‘Audio News’, a pupil recording of the school newsletter. Basically anything which encourages parents to see that their input into school life has a direct impact on their child’s aspirations.

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So, when Scholastic were looking for schools to try out their rather marvellous book clubs, I gave another enthusiastic ‘yes’! Vaguely aware of Scholastic from my own childhood, I quickly saw that what they were offering was just what our school needed: a wide range of books from tots to teens, great prices, and the opportunity to earn rewards for the school with every purchase.

Let me pause on this point for a sec. You know how sometimes it takes a gazillion years to earn anything decent with loyalty schemes? The ‘buy 15 three-course meals and get a free coffee’ type scheme? Well, Scholastic rewards grow quicker than you can say ‘free books’. For every order over £10, the school receives £2 back in free books. As these build up, imagine how well-stocked your school library and classrooms become, all because YOU indulged in a bit of retail therapy. What’s not to like?

The range of books really is phenomenal, covering many different publishers, genres, interests and ages. For example, I was able to indulge my 6 year old’s love of Enid Blyton, and also buy some Tom Gates books for our 9 year old godson. Even the fussiest reader will find something to interest them in the extensive catalogue; as Scholastic’s website suggests, children are more likely to read books they’ve chosen themselves. There’s no obligation to buy anything at all, and it’s simple to set up: Scholastic sends catalogues, the school distributes them, and parents make orders. It’s a great way to get grandparents and wider friends/family involved in supporting your school as well, as they can order from a distance. Why not click here for details of how to go about setting this up at your school?

As a rapidly improving school, we stood to benefit greatly from Scholastic. The problem was, we didn’t get many orders. Perhaps this is not surprising as our school is full of low-income families, some of which perhaps don’t see the value of books, many of whom will choose to buy lesser-quality books at supermarkets.

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But I think it’s also to do with how people spend money. Personally, I’m used to transferring virtual money in exchange for things I’ve seen only on a screen. Many families at our school, however, work in cash (receiving weekly payments of benefits or wages), and don’t tend to buy things they can’t see in the flesh. And you can forget browsing the online catalogue: many parents at our school use the internet only for social media. With this in mind, if we were to run a future Scholastic event, I would love to see a sale-or-return option available so that I could set up an actual stall – perhaps during a school fair or just at the school gate – and parents and children could see just how enticing these books are.

With regards to capitalising on how lower income families tend to use the internet, I would love to see Scholastic develop their social media presence so as to reach these hard-to-reach families. The books are SO good and SUCH good value that they really need to be entering the homes of every child in the country, particularly those whose parents may not naturally buy books.

Overall, however, we’ve made a start and – like everything being done to engage parents at our school – it’s a slow but sure beginning.  The momentum will pick up over time – and, fortunately, we have plenty of years left at school.

Disclaimer: I was invited by Scholastic, via Mumsnet Bloggers, to set up a Scholastic book club in our school and blog about how it went. I received no payment, although they may give me some shopping vouchers if I can convince them that I’ve met their deadline (like, not in the slightest). All views are my own, even the good ones.

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6 Replies to “what happened at ‘that’ school, part 2: setting up a scholastic book club”

  1. Wonderful! Im so pleased you’ve established yourself as a good parent to have around at school (to coin a phrase from a blog post you made when Mister started school and which has rung in my ears ever since!). It’s great that you give a voice to your fellow parents too. I’m on common ground with many parents at your school with regard to how I shop. Out of preference rather than necessity, I like to handle cash rather than make card payments and I buy almost everything under £40 or so ‘in the flesh’ unless it’s something that can absolutely and inescapably only be got online eg books on my Kindle must be bought through Amazon (sob!). I don’t mean to sound exacting or idealistic about my eschewing of Internet shopping – I just like doing it this way because it reduces unnecessary packaging, it makes the bank statement quicker to check at the end of the month (it’s essentially a short list of large wodges of money withdrawn from cash points – I know how I’ve spent it), it brings me into contact with a human shopkeeper/stallholder rather than my computer screen (read: provides more opportunities to chinwag), it makes me less traceable via card payments and therefore less vulnerable to tailored advertising, and there’s far less risk of discovering a problem with an item I’ve bought later on. Interestingly, I also rely heavily on social media for keeping up-to-date with local events – I’ll swiftly unsubscribe from retailers’ e-mailing lists. I am very fortunate not to be on a low income, but I wonder if I represent another subculture of consumers who for the reasons listed above would really appreciate retailers like Scholastic going in the direction you suggest?!

    Now excuse me, payday has landed so I need to go and withdraw some money from the cashpoint and put it to one side so I can do the bulk of my Christmas shopping at a local craft fair I heard about on Facebook. 😉

  2. Yeah good points Izzy! It’s fascinating to hear about your approach to spending money – it’s not something we always talk about it, is it, and yet I guess we all have very different approaches. I enjoy using local businesses as you do, but I guess I also buy quite a lot online which wouldn’t otherwise come from local businesses (e.g. something I’d either buy at a supermarket or online). Would love to hear about the craft fair you mention…!?

      1. Thanks for the invite! I’ve liked York Makers on FB as I’d love to be informed of future events, even if I can’t make this one 🙂 Actually I’m being super organised this year and hope to have bought all our presents by mid November! x

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