Our family absolutely loves books so much that when we were back in the US, we stocked up on nearly a whole suitcase of books. I’m not talking about those tiny carry-ons either. I mean side-busting suitcases that slightly go over the limit and won’t pass if the flight attendant feels cranky that day.
And why wouldn’t we? Goodwill in the US has books that are available for 50 cents to USD $1 (about ¥3.5 to ¥7).
Now those prices are hard to find around China. Taobao and JD.com often boast books that are ¥30 but the selection isn’t that great. Scholastic book fliers have plenty of variety and are sent through schools, but they start at a minimum of USD$3-$4 with most books averaging between USD$5-$10.
Roundabout Book Fairs, though, start their books at low prices rivaling even Goodwill. And you don’t have to waste precious luggage space either.
To make the most of these book fairs, I suggest the following principles:
- If the book is worn, that’s OK.
Some really like new things, but when it comes to books, typically wear is a really great sign. That would most likely mean that the person who owned the book before really, really loved that story. Chances are your child will love that story too. Severely damaged books should be avoided of course, especially if they’re workbook type books.
- Be wary of very new, unopened books.
New is nice, again, but at a book fair of used books, that could mean the new book had something wrong with it. There’s nothing more annoying than reading about Skippy hovering over the deep end of the water, about to jump, turning the page to discover…. the crux of the story has been accidentally left out during printing. They lived happily ever after. The end. I’m sure Roundabout does their best to catch obviously damaged and misprinted books, but it’s possible they could miss a dud.
- Go for books slightly above and way above your child’s reading level.
I suppose it’s a no-brainer to skip books at or below your child’s reading level if they already have plenty of access, but I suggest stocking up on cheap higher-level novels that might interest your child, too. Instead of reading a picture book at bedtime, you could start reading a classic novel, like Where the Red Fern Grows, or The Wizard of Oz, or the Chronicles of Narnia series. Reading books with higher vocabulary will start them to develop better oral skills.
- Get science and information books.
So maybe this is nerdy, but when I was a kid my mom had a whole collection of those old encyclopedias. I used to sit and look through the pictures and read the entries because it was interesting. I learned about at least a hundred different types of Native American cultures, language, and dress. Offering diverse literature will give your children the opportunity to learn facts that will enrich their worldview and perspectives. If you can’t find encyclopedia style books, don’t worry. Look for magazines that are reputable for information, like The National Geographic.
- Don’t forget foreign language books.
Many expats now have children who are learning both Chinese and English, but Beijing is blessed with a strong number of French-, Spanish-, and German-speaking expat communities. If you see a foreign language book, snatch it. They’re rare! Even if your child doesn’t show interest, it could be a great gift to a future neighbor who speaks that language. And we all know as expats how these little gifts of home can make a world of difference when you’re settling in to Beijing.
And guess what? You’re in luck! The next Roundabout book fair will be hosted on Sunday, September 24 from 10am to 3pm at Keystone Academy Performing Arts Center (#10 An Fu Street, Hou Sha Yu, Shunyi District, Beijing; 北京市顺义区后沙峪镇安富街号). It’s free to attend!
If you want to help volunteer (and… shhh!… get a preview of the books on sale…) contact Roundabout for their volunteer opportunity the day before.
Volunteer Opportunity for Roundabout, Sep 23-27 and Sep 24
All ages. Roundabout invites everyone for a volunteer opportunity in two separate events this week. The setup for the Book Fair at Keystone Academy begins September 23 at 1.30pm and the takedown on September 27 at 8.30am. The second event is Roundabout’s public sale on Sep 24, with two shifts available (9.45am-12.30pm and 12.15-3pm). To sign up, contact Lily Zhou of Roundabout (WeChat ID: CHOWLZHOU, 150 1018 7653) or Friederike (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vanessa Jencks writes about relationships and faith at vanessajencks.com; more of her beijingkids articles can be found here.
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