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Scholastic allows schools to 'opt out' of diverse titles at book fairs

Scholastic Book Fairs are a U.S. school staple, and now those schools can decide whether they want to include certain titles on race and sexuality.
Scholastic allows schools to 'opt out' of diverse titles at book fairs
Posted at 7:50 PM, Oct 18, 2023

The Scholastic Book Fair is a magical event for young readers, with pop-up displays filled with new and exciting titles giving students the chance to snag a book for keeps without even leaving school grounds.

But depending on a student's school, the event may not have every title due to a change in Scholastic's curation strategy — in particular, how it curates books discussing diversity.

The company has now begun offering books dealing with discussions of race or LGBTQ+ themes as part of an additional book fair collection called, "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice," which elementary schools can opt in or out of, or limit at their book fairs.

This catalog of 64 books includes biographies about Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, books about desegregation, disability-positive titles and more.

In defending its decision, Scholastic said the collection was created as a response to the more than 30 states now prohibiting certain book themes from schools. And while it can't decide for its school partners which risks to take in going against book ban laws, this solution, which it said it doesn't "pretend" is perfect, is better than not offering the books at all, it said

"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," the company said in a statement Friday defending its decision.

SEE MORE: Book ban attempts reach record high, new stats show

This dilemma for the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books comes as book ban attempts reached an "unparalleled" 20-year high in 2022, according to the American Library Association.

Recent challenges have largely focused on books involving race, gender and sexuality discussions, particularly in conservative legislatures.

Despite Scholastic's opposition to these book bans, its decision to separate these titles didn't sit well with some authors and organizations.

One Louisiana school librarian said she canceled her 10th annual Scholastic Book Fair in response to the change. 

And PEN America, a free expression advocacy organization with whom Scholastic signed an open letter opposing book bans earlier this month, said it acknowledged the "impossible bind" publishers are in with these laws, but it implored Scholastic to change course.

"We call on Scholastic to explore other solutions so they can reject any role in accommodating these nefarious laws and local pressures, or being an accessory to government censorship," PEN America said. "In an environment of growing censorship, publishers have a dual obligation to both fight it, and to make books as maximally available as possible."

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