Discover more from Wonkette
Hey, Scholastic, Maybe You Could NOT Help Out The Censors?
Oh, your school doesn't want any 'diverse' choices in the book fair? Happy to help!
Scholastic, the ubiquitous publisher with the “book club” catalogs that young readers drool over every couple months, and the annual book fairs that kids look forward to because they can get out of class and go to the gym or the library and come back with a book they’ve bought all on their own, is being accused by school librarians and friends of school libraries of quietly knuckling under to the rightwing creeps who want to cleanse schools of books and ideas that they object to.
As feminerd pop culture blog The Mary Sue reports, the librarians have alleged on social media that, in advance of book fairs, Scholastic reps have asked if they would like to include a case of “diverse” books as part of the book fair offerings, with the implication that some schools might decide to leave those scary books out. Basically, the company appears to have gone through its own offerings of books for elementary and middle schools and segregated out books by authors of color, or books that might conceivably upset local rightwingers, rather than simply including them in the regular mix of books for those age groups.
In one case, a Reddit user wrote that their school’s librarian was upset when a Scholastic representative asked if she wanted to include a case of “diverse” books in the upcoming book fair. That created, in effect, a “bigot button” that would allow schools to say “no thanks.” The Reddit post noted that several of the books had won literary prizes or were by authors who had won prizes previously, and included selections like
“Alma and How She Got Her Name” by Juana Martinez-Neal, a Caldecott Honor Book about the origins of a Latina girl’s name. “You Are Enough” a beautiful book co-written by an 11 year old model and actress with Down syndrome. […] “Change Sings” by the National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. “Refugee” by Alan Gratz that presents three stories of 13 year olds forced to flee their respective homes in different time periods.
Oh, that troublemaker Amanda Gorman, or as idiot book banners know her, “Oprah.”
And unlike all the other cases of books from Scholastic, which are sorted by age and reading level, the writer said, “this one ranges from Kindergarten to Middle School, showing a concerted effort to remove and concentrate “diverse” books making them easily excludable.”
A similar complaint from school librarian “Tegan B.” on TikTok said that she too had been given the choice to include diverse books, and that of course she wanted them because what a ridiculous question, diversity should be a given. But even after that, the case of diverse books didn’t arrive until three days into her week-long book fair. And while there were some books by authors of color in the '“regular” collection, she said, most of the books Scholastic sent at first were books about animals and white people, like "Animal Farm,” (no I made that part up). Her students are primarily Hispanic, and she noted that kids who’d already had time off from class to visit the book fair “will not see themselves in the pages.”
revealed that Scholastic’s optional diverse books case came up at The Association of Illinois School Library Educators’ meeting. She called the decision “insidious” and stated that librarians must “raise hell about this.”
Jensen’s now-protected tweet — her account is currently private, so Crom only knows what harassment she’s dealt with — asked, “Why is it appropriate for Scholastic to have an easy censorship option? Why is profit more important than fighting back?”
UPDATE: From the comments, which we do not allow, Alert Wonkette Operative “Do Something! Linda” confirms this happened at her school too, noting that her boss, a school district librarian, was asked “this same question” by a Scholastic rep.
Our first book fair will be at the primary school, so kids first grade and under. My boss passed on the diversity thing because there were too many books in with LGBTQ content and they won't sell well, here. We'll probably do the diversity package for middle school.
She also added in a separate comment a reminder that book fairs can suck for poor kids who don’t have the money for overpriced paperbacks (my link, not hers) because they get reminded of it annually when their classmates go on spending sprees. That’s a very legitimate problem and all the more reason for protecting school and public libraries! (Goddammit there should be free books for everyone!)
Normally, you’d think that Scholastic, a publisher of children’s books — especially a publisher whose website features pages titled “Diverse and Inclusive Books to Inspire Young Adults” or “Teach Diversity With Multicultural Books for Pre-K and Kindergarten,” among many others — would be a big opponent of school censors who want to “protect” the precious younglings from ideas that might corrupt them, like pictures of rainbows or those damn gay penguins with their Penguin Lust.
Heck, Scholastic even provides a handy dandy “Ultimate List of Banned books” on its site.
Scholastic could have taken the course of publisher Penguin Random House, which is joining parents, students, several authors, and PEN America to sue a Florida school district on First Amendment grounds, for censoring school libraries and teachers’ classroom book collections.
Then again, books is a business, and Scholastic in the last year has seen school districts cancel (or “reevaluate”) book fairs altogether, or rightwing groups like Moms for ‘Liberty’ demand the power to screen all the book fair offerings in advance. And of course there was that Georgia teacher who was fired this year after she bought the nonbinary fable My Shadow Is Purple at a Scholastic fair at her own school and read it to her class, although the book is completely non-explicit and doesn’t mention directly the terms “nonbinary,” “gender identity,” or “subvert the patriarchy” at all.
In a bright spot of resistance, though, when the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District in Texas canceled its Scholastic fair last November, a group of parents paid Scholastic and put on their own book fair — where they also registered voters. Goddamn right.
As of yet, it doesn’t appear that Scholastic itself has issued any comment on the matter. If it really is chickening out and giving schools the option to Just Say No to diversity, it wouldn’t be the first time Scholastic has shown cowardice under fire in the current Book Wars. Earlier this year, the company pissed off children’s book authors and fans of free speech when Publisher’s Weekly revealed that Scholastic had offered to publish its own edition of Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s 2022 picture book Love in the Library, a bibliophile love story (bibliophilephilia?) based on how her grandparents met in the library of Idaho’s Minedoka internment camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII.
But there was a catch, and it was a doozy: Scholastic, citing the “politically sensitive” book market these days, you know how it is, asked Tokuda-Hall to remove the phrase “virulent racism” from her author’s note about the USA’s virulently racist internment policy, and to delete a paragraph about the legacy of racism in the Land of the Free. After the inevitable social media storm, Scholastic soon apologized (archive link) and withdrew the request for changes to the book. As far as we can tell (updates on stories like this are hard to find!), no Scholastic edition of Love in the Library is yet in the company’s catalog.
But not all the book war news is terrible: Check out this neato Salon story about how parents in a Pennsylvania are fighting against the rightwing takeover of their school district. The Moms for Christian Nationalism managed to elect a majority to the school board, but once their plans for remaking the social studies curriculum in Hillsdale College’s image became clear, the sensible folks came out in droves to put a stop to it.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please subscribe, or if you’re more in the mood to make a one-time donation, this here button will take your money and not demand you change a single word of your author’s note.