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Giving the Gift of Reading With a Discount: California Book Fairs

By Pamela Sosnowski

For over 20 years, California Book Fairs (CBF) has been helping to put books into the hands of children so that they can experience the joys of reading at an economical cost. The program's mission statement is that no child "should have to pay full price for a book." Working with over 200 schools, the program delivers the gift of reading to children in the Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego communities.

Michelle Schwabe, the program's Vice President of Sales and Marketing, explains how CBF came to be. "We sold books to low-income schools utilizing Title I/categorical federal funding for over two decades, but the money disappeared when the economy began to take a turn," she says. "(We) diversified into selling books to students and offering elementary schools a customer service-focused book fair fundraiser."

Some schools want to provide books at a lower cost to their students, while others may want to purchase books for the classroom or the school library. Whatever the goals, the books that CBF provides are base-priced at either 20% or 50% off retail. It's up to the school to decide how much of that savings they want to earn for education needs. "We are the only book fair company that offers a discount on the retail price of the book and a higher cash profit as a fundraiser to the schools and hands-on customer service with personalized care," says Schawbe.

With some schools struggling to find parent volunteers to help with book fairs, CBF will take responsibility of setting up the event. The set-up process for each book fair usually takes less than two hours. "CBF handles the setup/tear-down and will ensure startup cash for every register to ensure the volunteers don't have to spend unnecessary hours and rather focus on putting books into the hands of children," states Schwabe. The program also sends posters, banners, and other promotional materials to each school a few weeks in advance so that teachers and school administrators can begin building excitement among the students.

CBF can also arrange for local schools to host a Literacy Night at the program's brick-and-mortar bookstores. They also offer a Classroom Wish List program, where parents can purchase a book that a teacher would like for their classroom.

With affordable books, Schwabe explains, everybody benefits - the kids who get to enjoy a new book, the parents who save money, and the school officials who need classroom materials.

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