Preston Helfand checks out a book during the recent book fair at Manzanita Elementary School. The sale had an ancient-Egypt-reading-oasis theme.

Courtesy of Kelley Helfand

Twice per school year at Manzanita Elementary School the Family Faculty Organization, or FFO — which is similar to a PTA — puts on a book fair. The students go nuts over it. They love books, and they love to read. I’ve been a co-chair of the book fair for the last 2ƒ years, and it’s a fun and rewarding experience.

The excitement builds the week before the fair, when Manzanita’s librarian treats the students to popcorn and shows them a video, produced by Scholastic Books, that previews some books the fair will offer.

Then Scholastic Books delivers rolling cabinets and dozens of boxes filled with books for all ages — from babies through adults — and FFO volunteers transform the school’s multipurpose room into a beautifully decorated bookstore.

Each book fair lasts a week and has a different theme.

The theme for this fall’s book fair was ancient Egypt and a reading oasis.

Lucky for us, our book fair was scheduled soon after Halloween. A creative parent repurposed her Halloween skeletons as mummies and vampire coffins as sarcophagi. A giant paper pyramid built around an open ladder adorned the stage.

Throughout the week, students bring in money to buy books and stationery items supplied by Scholastic. Some boys and girls have clearly raided their piggy banks, bringing in loads of change in zip-lock bags. Parents and grandparents stop by, too, during the designated “Family Night” event, or before or after school.

Big sellers at the book fair this fall were “Diary of a Wimpy Kid 8: Hard Luck” by Jeff Kinney; “Spirit Animals Book 1: Wild Born” by Brandon Mull; and “Gaby, Lost and Found” by Angela Cervantes.

I worked as a cashier for several hours of the book fair. As I was ringing up a parent’s purchase, she commented that book fairs like this one would only be around for another five or 10 years. She believes that the growing popularity of e-readers will spell the demise of the book fair.

I really hadn’t considered that. My sons have never read an e-book on our iPad. We go to the library on a regular basis to check out books, and they bring home books from the school library. But the Catalina Foothills School District did institute a “Bring Your Own Device” policy recently that allows students to bring privately owned electronic devices to school for educational purposes.

I can see some older elementary students moving to e-books, but I don’t think e-books will ever be a substitute for real books for babies and young readers. Illustrations on a screen don’t compare to illustrations in a picture book. Holding a Kindle and touching a screen to turn a page doesn’t compare to holding a real book, feeling the texture, and turning the pages.

It will be interesting to see if our book fair sales decrease over the next few years, and if that parent’s prediction comes true. Time will tell. But for now, I’m looking forward to the spring book fair.

Kelley Helfand is a Foothills resident and mom to two sons. E-mail her at