Scholastic Book Fairs Are Putting Some “Diverse Titles” in a Separate Category
Gender Equity Forum
Many former public school kids in the U.S. look back on the Scholastic Book Fair with fondness. But the company recently made a decision about book fairs that is proving controversial, by putting “diverse” books in a separate category and making them an optional offering at elementary school book fairs.
Discussion of the decision has been swirling on social media for weeks and started gaining steam last week when the feminist blog The Mary Sue reported on the decision. Scholastic issued a statement in response to the controversy on Friday, stating that the allegation that the company puts all of its diverse titles into an optional case is a “misconception.” However, the statement went on to say that they have indeed created an “additional collection” called “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” for elementary schools, which the company says they made as a way of protecting educators from the legal entanglements they could face as a result of book bans.
“There is now enacted or pending legislation in more than 30 U.S. states prohibiting certain kinds of books from being in schools – mostly LGBTQIA+ titles and books that engage with the presence of racism in our country,” the statement reads. “Because Scholastic Book Fairs are invited into schools, where books can be purchased by kids on their own, these laws create an almost impossible dilemma: back away from these titles or risk making teachers, librarians, and volunteers vulnerable to being fired, sued, or prosecuted.”
The company claimed that the only other option would be to not offer the books at all. But the decision was slammed by many people, including authors. Olivia Wolfgang-Smith, a novelist who is also a senior digital manager at Scholastic, posted to X on Sunday to call the decision “a cowardly, demoralizing, and harmful way for Scholastic to use its power in this industry.”
Wolfgang-Smith went on to note that Scholastic is the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world, and that the company “could be using its position to push back and advocate for the children it claims to serve.”
Molly Ostertag, a cartoonist who has worked on a number of titles for Scholastic and who has written for The Owl House, also posted to X on Sunday to speak out against the decision, sharing the text of a speech she gave at a party for Scholastic’s graphic novel imprint.
“It seems to be a good faith effort to protect teachers and librarians, and I understand the reasoning, but I feel the need to stand up tonight and say that I think this is a grave miscalculation,” she said. “It doesn’t come across as anything but an attempt to compromise with, frankly, fascist laws.”
A September report from the literary advocacy group PEN America found that book bans had increased by 33% during the 2022-2023 school year, despite the fact that the majority of Americans don’t support them. 30% of book bans applied to books that represent LGBTQ+ identities. And yet, people are still buying LGBTQ+ books en masse, with one report finding that sales of queer fiction have jumped 173% since 2019. (See the entire article here at Them.us.)
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UPDATE to this post (before we published it in the Progressive Action Update): The article at Them.us referenced above was dated October 17, 2023. As of October 26th, a new article says that Scholastic has changed their minds! They heard our outrage! Scholastic removes optional diverse book section after controversy is a follow-up news story from ABC. Read that article here.