Scholastic backtracks option to separate diverse books at school fairs

Scholastic backtracks option to separate diverse books at school fairs

Scholastic is reversing its decision to separate diverse books at school fairs following mounting criticism from educators, authors and parents.

The children’s book publisher came under fire last month when it began separating books discussing race, gender, sexuality and other diverse topics into their own collection and designated that collection as optional for schools to order and display at their book fairs.

This “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection housed 64 titles, including biographies about Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, books about desegregation, disability-positive titles and a picture book about different family types, such as those with same-sex parents.

Scholastic pointed to the move as a response to the more than 30 states now prohibiting certain titles from schools, but the company quickly became subject to outrage from a multitude of groups, from authors calling the change a “betrayal” to different advocacy groups amounting it to censorship or depriving young students of hearing diverse perspectives.

In defending this decision initially, Scholastic said the optional grouping was due to the “impossible dilemma” of either backing away from titles or putting its school partners at risk of prosecution for breaking laws. It acknowledged this catalog solution wasn’t a perfect one but that not offering the books at all was something it wouldn’t consider.

However, it’s changing course now, saying it’s listened to the criticism and will discontinue the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection while it finds a “pivot plan” to work with book bans.

“Even if the decision was made with good intention, we understand now that it was a mistake to segregate diverse books in an elective case,” Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic Trade Publishing, said in a letter addressed to authors and illustrators. “We recognize and acknowledge the pain caused, and that we have broken the trust of some of our publishing community, customers, friends, trusted partners, and staff, and we also recognize that we will now need to regain that trust.”

In a separate statement, Scholastic said it would continue keeping in mind the needs of its educators as well as the children it serves.

PEN America, a free speech organization partner of Scholastic that called on the company to explore other solutions weeks ago, applauded the decision to backtrack.

“Scholastic recognized that, as difficult a bind as this pernicious legislation created, the right answer was not to become an accessory to censorship,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of its free expression and education program. “Scholastic is an essential source of knowledge and a delight for countless children. We are glad to see them champion the freedom to read.”