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.
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.
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.