There is something a little magical about cracking open a book and sitting down to read. Whether for those just starting to sound out the words, or those breezing through chapter books, Scholastic Book Company is producing more books than ever before.
As Scholastic celebrates 45 years of distribution from its Jefferson City location, Senior Vice President Faye Edwards wants the community to know it's here to stay, keeping the memory of the book club alive for many more years to come. In 2012, the distribution center shipped out 150 million units. This is more than any previous year. With growing demand and changes in education, the national distribution and publishing company has modified its book club just in time for back-to-school, and it's adding more employees and better technology to its local warehouse as well.
After much research, the iconic club fliers from which children choose their Scholastic books have been given a facelift, making it easier for both parents and teachers to identify the best product for their children. The fliers are printed to be grade specific, also utilizing the current labeling system for various reading levels. They spotlight the 50 best books for each age group, Edwards explained.
"We are calling out the right books for kids, making it so much easier for parents," she said of the new labeling system.
Books like "Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore!" and "Clifford Makes the Team" are recommended for first graders, while "Ramona Quimby, Age 8" and "Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm" are suggested for second graders. The fliers also highlight the importance of reading for 40 minutes a day, both aloud and to one's self. Edwards noted that many books cost between $1 and $5, making reading affordable for all.
In conjunction with the new fliers, teachers are getting a little help as well. The book company is focused on helping educators develop curriculum in line with the Common Core. It also continues to help train teachers and will continue its Read180 program. A new Math180 program is being rolled out due to popular demand of the similar reading program.
"Teachers are hungry for developing curriculum," the senior vice president noted.
In response to the beginning of a new school year, and the demand that comes with the season, the Jefferson City distribution center is making considerable accommodations. New technology is being added for warehouse optimization, and approximately 400 seasonal workers are being hired.
"Jefferson City should be very proud of having the national distribution center here," Edwards said. "We are in an incredible time of growth."
From September to December, a typical day's shipment includes approximately 560,000 units in 71,000 orders. Up to 70 catalogs composed of more than 9,000 unique items may be available at the same time.
Although the adult market makes strides to eBooks, Edwards said the kids' market is at 5 percent or less, and the teen market is less than 10 percent.
"We're not ignoring it, it is just happening slowly," Edwards related.
The book distributor does offer eBooks, but continues to make investments in the physical product as well.
Because of other technology, namely the Internet, Scholastic has seen significant growth in online sales. Edwards said the demand for physical product has driven the need for the warehouse to turn orders faster. Capital investments have been made to help move the product appropriately, making a more efficient workflow.
A new program was also added this summer, bringing in about 30 employees. The department processes Scholastic Mail Fairs, which is the typical book fair held in schools all over the U.S., but shipped to remote areas via freight line instead of delivered in a Scholastic Book Fair truck. These orders were previously processed at the Olympia, Wash., site.
Jefferson City has housed Scholastic's distribution center since 1968. It continues to grow and employs approximately 1,500 employees at its peak.
"Forty-five years says a lot about the city, its work ethic and school districts.
"People understand what we're doing. It is a great business to be in, helping kids learn, and teachers teach," Edwards said.
As a reminder to the magic that happens in her business, Edwards keeps a few of the books she purchased from Scholastics as a child on a shelf in her Jefferson City office.
"I've come full circle," she said of the bookworm child she once was, now a vital part of the national organization.