First Night

The First Thing You Need to Have Your Own “Scholastic Book Fair” at Home

published Sep 8, 2022
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I can remember the rush like it was yesterday: Walking into the elementary school library and seeing it freshly lined with shiny paperbacks, posters, and placards declaring that today was the day — the Scholastic Book Fair had arrived. I was not big into sporting games as a child (ban relay races, not books!!) so the book fair was my personal field day. And many former youths agree — the tables and shelves lined with “Goosebumps” and “Junie B. Jones” were a burgeoning book lover’s dream come true, and persist as a glorious childhood memory. All good things must come to an end, though. Or must they?! Now that September has arrived and back-to-school is in the air, I say it’s time to bring the Scholastic Book Fair to your very own home. Here’s how to do it. 

Credit: 1000Photography/

Set the mood.

If you have access to your childhood book stash, it’s time to dig them out. Line them up along your shelves or atop your table for ambiance, flipping through the pages as you do. If you don’t, heed the iconic words of Arthur: Having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card. Don’t hoard a stack of books, but take to your local library branch and peruse the kids’ section, breathing in the nostalgia as you roam the stacks. Once you’ve landed on your favorite chapter book of yore (“Polar Bears Past Bedtime,” perhaps?) go ahead and check it out — you may be surprised by how much more quickly you can read it these days.

Next, look up a good PBS Kids show or whatever you were mostly likely to watch after getting off the school bus and put that on in the background, just to enforce the walk down memory lane. Finally, consider shopping for a few old-fashioned school supplies. Everyone knows half the fun of book fairs was the catalog that came with them — I still remember circling some items in pen and vigorously calling attention to others in highlighter, so my parents would know which ones I was really serious about, if I could only choose a couple. What’s the modern day equivalent to the paper catalog? The online shopping cart, of course. Take to a site like Etsy and search for a tiny treat that tickles your back-to-school fancy. Jumbo pencil, perhaps? I’m looking at these novelty fruit-shaped erasers which I would like to put in a bowl and eat like popcorn erase things with! Whatever adorable school supplies you settle on, sprinkle them around the room for added transformation.

Credit: Minette Hand

Let the readathon begin. 

What does one do at a grown-up book fair? Read, of course! But you don’t have to turn to Magic Tree House, unless you’d like to. This is the perfect excuse to fully indulge in the book you’ve only been reading in snippets on the subway, or that’s been languishing in your TBR pile. If you prefer audiobooks, set up a cozy spot on your couch or in your favorite reading chair and let yourself completely tune into the author’s words and the narrator’s voice. And should you run out of books during this readathon, or the day ends up being too beautiful to want to stay inside, gather up some paperbacks you can bear to part with and take a stroll past a Little Free Library or your local coffee shop’s book swap shelf — you can even leave a little sticky note in the front cover letting the next owner know why you loved the book so much. 

Credit: Getty Images/ Maskot

Select the snacks. 

All that page-turning calls for something to nosh on. To fully lean into the grade school nostalgia, look no further than the humble tater tot. If you’d like to dress it up, you can whip up aioli and a few other sauces to create your own dipping buffet. Other classic after-school snacks like cheese and apple slices or ants on a log are excellent choices. As for a cozy drink, a hot mocha is the perfect blend of the chocolate milk of your childhood and the strong coffee of your present.

🪩Welcome to First Night, a series all about having fun at home. The first week of each month, we’ll publish a new idea for a creative at-home experience, from what to do, to how to decorate, to what to serve. Browse ways to make your next night in feel special here.