The Baby Sitters Club: Rugged individualism, middle school style

If you were in elementary school in the 1990s, you remember The Baby Sitters Club.

The series, written by Ann M. Martin, starred a group of middle school students who, in a bid for some extra cash, start their own babysitting syndicate of sorts -- offering guaranteed childcare to parents on short notice. The books became a cultural phenomenon, selling 176 million copies in 14 years, spawning a series of 131 titles, 76 special issues, and 128 titles in the Baby Sitters Little Sister spin-off series.

In an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal, Laura Vanderkram offers an insightful look at the lessons young people -- and, actually, old people, too -- can take from the series:

"What this very entrepreneurial girl discovers is that when you can't get a job through the usual channels, you can create your own. Kristy and her friends saw an inefficiency in the market: frustrated parents who had to make five phone calls just to leave the house, and potential sitters missing out on gigs because of limited contacts. So they solved it with their club, and kept themselves gainfully employed all through middle school."

In an era where young people are constantly being told how bad the job market is, how screwed they are by declining public funding for higher education, and how all hope is lost unless President Obama can save us, the girls of the Baby Sitters Club emerge as Randian heroines for the elementary school set.

The books have been out of print for years but, on April 1, Scholastic will begin reissuing them at a price point of $5.99. But for parents looking to inspire her kids with the resourcefullness of a past decade's children's lit icons, there's a better option: eBay. A huge lot of 116 Baby Sitters Club books, for example, can be had for just $99.95. You may even want to read a few yourself.
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