After over a month of hearing from librarians, educators, authors, and other anti-censorship advocates, Scholastic says they will be discontinuing their separate “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collections at their Book Fairs. This case of 64 books included BIPOC stories and LGBTQ+ stories, and in order to get it included in Book Fairs, those running the events at their schools were required to opt-in to the collection. It was not standard issue.
Ellie Berger, the President of Scholastic Trade Publishing, stated the cases will be discontinued in January and emphasized the company’s commitment to sharing these stories with readers.
The October 24, 2023, statement comes weeks after the company dropped an update on Friday afternoon, shared via Twitter, meant to address “rumors” about a “bigot button” implemented in this season’s Book Fairs. It is a complete backpedal, as the initial comment on the diverse book case stated the company made the decision because there were so many different discriminatory laws across the country that they needed to put the responsibility of withholding inclusive books into the hands of the educators within these communities. Nowhere in the initial statement did Scholastic address the work they were doing to push back against book ban laws.
This new messaging does not address how they plan to act either, other than “[W]e pledge to stand with you as we redouble our efforts to combat the laws restricting children’s access to books.” They plan to implement changes now, but what those changes are has not been shared. Full changes will roll out in January. Again, there is no description of what those changes may be.
It is clear the new pledge to stop the separate bookcases comes in the wake of several petitions calling for the end, including one led by a large contingent of authors and illustrators, parental activist group Red, Wine & Blue, and Parents Together, and others. Hundreds of educators weighed in about the new bigotry button on Reddit and other social media, as well as at library-centric conferences across the country beginning at the end of September.
Although Scholastic is light on details on where and how they plan to make good on their commitment to diversity and inclusion and offered apologies to several stakeholder groups, one of the core issues of the problem remains unaddressed. Why did Scholastic put the onus on educators and librarians–already beleaguered by rhetoric calling them groomers, indoctrinators, and more–and why are they not specifically apologizing for putting these overworked, underpaid, and derided professionals in the position to be censors? It might be too little, too late.
Scholastic Book Fairs have been the subject of book banning for over two years now, and right-wing censors have been eager to not only charge the company with the same claims lodged against thousands of books but to create space for their own right-wing book fairs to be the replacement.
Earlier this year, Scholastic found itself in hot water for asking a BIPOC author to make changes to her story in order to make it more palatable for licensing. This would make it widely distributed to students across the country. The author, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, rightly refused to make the changes, and despite meetings across the company, felt the apology given to her was not only hollow but that until changes were seen, she’d remain skeptical.
The same statement applies here. Until Scholastic implements actual change, steps up into the battle against the continuously-growing fight to ban books by and about queer people and people of color like other major publishers have through lawsuits, and does not put the responsibility of censorship onto some of the most vulnerable professionals, the new apology is public relations, not action.
As a brilliant 17-year-old stated last night at the Illinois District 300 school board meeting in regards to the district’s canceling of the spring musical The Prom, “Change doesn’t just happen. It’s created.”
It’s time to create, Scholastic.