Children’s book publisher Scholastic has reversed its decision to create a separate, optional section for its elementary school book fairs for titles written predominantly by and about people of color and LGBTQ people.
Scholastic's initial decision to make some books optional came as nationwide attempts to ban books spike across the country and as dozens of states continue to implement policies that restrict how the subjects of race, gender and sexual orientation are discussed in schools.
"We understand now that the separate nature of the collection has caused confusion and feelings of exclusion," said Scholastic in a Wednesday press release. "We are working across Scholastic to find a better way. The Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice collection will not be offered with our next season in January."
Scholastic's "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" was made up of 64 titles, according to a preview of the list provided to EdWeek. The list includes books such as "I Am Ruby Bridges" by Ruby Bridges, "I Color Myself Different" by Colin Kaepernick and "She Dared: Malala Yousafzai" by Jenni L. Walsh.
“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,” Scholastic said about its original decision to create a book section that schools can opt out of.
The decision was criticized as censorship, with advocacy groups claiming the move will encourage those behind book bans and restrictive laws.
In the first eight months of the year, the American Library Association (ALA) recorded 695 attempts to censor library materials, impacting 1,915 unique book titles.
The vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or LGBTQ authors, according to the ALA.
“Censorship is anti-democratic and undermines one's freedom to learn," said the National Black Justice Coalition in a statement. "We condemn Scholastic for its decision to segregate books on race, gender, and sexuality at book fairs in a disappointing effort to appease a loud minority using politics to attack children and public schools to turn out voters using ignorance, fear, and hate."
Color Of Change, a racial justice advocacy group, said in a penned letter to Scholastic leadership: "The inclusion of Black and queer characters, authors, and stories in school book fairs is not optional. We call on Scholastic’s leadership to remove this exclusionary feature and commit to taking meaningful action to protect Black and LGBTQ books."
It applauded the decision to not offer a separate section.
When we organize, we win.
Thank you, @Scholastic, for removing the option for Black and queer authors and stories to be excluded from book fairs. And thank you to the #DefendBlackHistory movement for organizing to make this happen.
The fight for equitable education continues. pic.twitter.com/u6Y2FWOwEf
— ColorOfChange (@ColorOfChange) October 25, 2023
Scholastic, alongside several other advocacy groups, recently signed an open letter against book bans. Several of the co-signers on that letter denounced Scholastic's decision to create a separate section for such stories.
"Sequestering books on these topics risks depriving students and families of books that speak to them," said PEN America, a nonprofit organization focused on free expression, arguing that book bans "deny the opportunity for all students to encounter diverse stories that increase empathy, understanding, and reflect the range of human experiences."
Scholastic removes optional diverse book section after controversy originally appeared on abcnews.go.com