Scholastic is reversing its decision and stating that it will no longer segregate different stories for school book fairs in 2024, following several weeks of growing backlash from educators and authors.
The educational company, which both publishes and distributes books, found itself in hot water last month after confirming a change in its policy regarding offerings at middle school book fairs.
They announced that they would place most titles addressing issues of race, gender, and sexuality into their own collection and allow schools to choose whether to order them, as with any display.
Scholastic claimed that this change was aimed at helping districts deal with book bans that have been spreading across the country. They argued that such laws—either pending or passed in over 30 states—create an "almost insurmountable dilemma: abandon these titles or risk leaving teachers, librarians, and volunteers vulnerable to firing, legal action, or harassment."
Book Bans in the U.S. Are Damaging a Beloved Tradition: School Book Fairs EDUCATION Book Bans in the U.S. Are Damaging a Beloved Tradition: School Book Fairs However, their decision quickly drew criticism from many educators and authors who accused the company of capitulating to censorship. Many expressed on social media and in online petitions that they wanted the company to take a stronger stand against such legislation and still offer the books.
The reaction intensified after Scholastic published a statement on October 13 explaining its decision. Advocacy groups for racial justice and free speech criticized Scholastic for making diversity optional, accusing it of bowing to a small but vocal minority of Americans who support book bans, thereby depriving students of important stories and perspectives.
Ellie Berger, President of Scholastic Trade Publishing, issued an apology and announced the change on Tuesday in a letter addressed to authors and illustrators, a copy of which was obtained by NPR.
Scholastic had sought to license its controversial anthology titled "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" if it cut the section about "racism" BOOKS Scholastic had sought to license its controversial anthology titled "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" if it cut the section about "racism" "Even though the decision was made with good intentions, we now understand that it was a mistake to segregate books in optional categories," she wrote. "We acknowledge and take responsibility for the pain we have caused and also for undermining the trust of some members of our publishing community, customers, friends, trusted partners, and employees, and we also understand that we now need to work to rebuild that trust."
Berger said that the release of the controversial anthology titled "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" would be discontinued, starting in January. Book fairs are already underway this fall but will continue into the spring. She said the company is actively working on a "core plan" for the remaining fall book fairs.
"We will find alternate ways to get children more books," Berger wrote, before affirming the company's commitment to authors and stories by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors. "We pledge to support you as we redouble our efforts to fight laws that restrict children's access to books."
Ban of School Textbooks Shows No Sign of Slowing Down, Says New PEN America Report NATIONAL Ban of School Textbooks Shows No Sign of Slowing Down, Says New PEN America Report In a statement released on Wednesday, Scholastic said it will take into account the needs of the children it serves as well as educators facing restrictions on local content.
"It is concerning that the current, fraught environment in the United States creates an environment that could deprive any child of access to books or that teachers might be punished for providing their students access to all stories," the statement said.
PEN America, a non-profit organization that advocates for free speech, acknowledged Scholastic's dilemma and welcomed its decision to change course.