Scholastic backtracks after alleged exclusion of diverse books

Scholastic backtracks after alleged exclusion of diverse books

Scholastic's decision sparks debate on inclusivity, censorship, and the future of children's literature

by Suswati Basu
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After receiving feedback from librarians, educators, authors, and anti-censorship proponents for over a month, Scholastic has decided to discontinue its distinct “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collections at their Book Fairs. This collection, consisting of 64 books, featured stories from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. Schools had to specifically opt-in to include this collection at their Book Fairs, as it wasn’t automatically provided.

According to Popular Information, the company faced allegations of excluding books that feature people of colour and LGBTQ characters from its book fairs, succumbing to pressure from right-wing groups. This move sparked outrage, with many decrying Scholastic for caving to what some have dubbed “the culture wars.”

Ellie Berger, President of Scholastic Trade Publishing, announced that the cases will be phased out by January. She underscored the company’s dedication to bringing these stories to readers. Consequently, Berger apologised in a statement “to every author, illustrator, licensor, educator, librarian, parent, and reader who was hurt by our action,” adding it recognised “the pain caused, and that we have broken the trust.”

Scholastic’s controversial decision

The controversy centred around Scholastic’s collection, “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice.” School officials are given the option to exclude the entire set of books from their book fairs, effectively providing a mechanism for censorship that critics have likened to a “bigot button.”

Scholastic, a publicly-traded company with a market capitalisation of $1.15 billion, has a long history of hosting book fairs inside schools, making literature accessible to millions of students and their families across the country. According to the company, it puts on “120,000 book sale events in partnership with schools across the country, giving more than 35 million students and their families access to thousands of affordable books.” However, this move had ignited a firestorm of criticism.

Read: School book bans: alarming rise as Florida takes lead

School librarian Debby VanderSande shared a photograph of the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection, shedding light on some of the titles included. Among the books that faced potential exclusion is “Justice Ketanji,” a biography of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, depicting her inspirational journey.

Another notable inclusion was “Because of You, John Lewis: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship.” This book narrates the story of a young boy inspired by John Lewis’s fight for voting rights.

Several books in the collection promote acceptance and tolerance for LGBTQ individuals, including “All Are Welcome,” which encourages embracing diversity, and “Picture Day,” which features LGBTQ characters.

Additional titles encompass stories of cultural heritage, like “Alma and How She Got Her Name” and “Rez Dogs,” which explores Penacook heritage during the pandemic. “Change Sings” by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman empowers readers to make a positive change in the world.

Even schools that chose to include these books received a reminder from Scholastic that they can be excluded, reinforcing concerns about censorship.

In a statement posted online in October, Scholastic said it was necessary to segregate these titles because they say: “There is now enacted or pending legislation in more than 30 U.S. states prohibiting certain kinds of books from being in schools – mostly LGBTQIA+ titles and books that engage with the presence of racism in our country. Because Scholastic Book Fairs are invited into schools, where books can be purchased by kids on their own”. According to Scholastic, “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’s “solution” is to make it as easy as possible for school officials to exclude these books.

“We don’t pretend this solution is perfect – but the other option would be to not offer these books at all – which is not something we’d consider.”


Outcry from writers, educators, and activists

Critics, however, argued that Scholastic’s stance goes beyond the text of these laws. They point out that a biography of John Lewis or the story of Justice Jackson’s journey does not constitute “Critical Race Theory.” Instead, these books offer valuable historical narratives. Given the move, many have argued against the publisher for not taking a stand and bowing to “the culture wars.”

Furthermore, while some states restrict instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, the most expansive of these laws, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, specifically applies to instructional materials, not library books.

Read: Florida school district ‘bans books with LGBTQ characters entirely’

Scholastic’s decision to facilitate censorship due to “pending legislation” had left many perplexed, given the vast number of bills filed at the state level each year, many of which never become law.

Hence Scholastic faced criticism from Brave Books, a publisher opposing what it terms “the progressive agenda” in children’s books. Brave Books, known for publishing authors like Kirk Cameron, aims to provide alternative book fairs to schools, offering materials it considers age-appropriate and aligned with right-wing values.

This controversy marks a departure from Scholastic’s previously progressive stance, where the company publicly supported marginalised communities. The shift has raised questions about the publisher’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

“Scholastic believes that all people, including unequivocally those in the trans community, deserve to live free of prejudice and intolerance, and our company actions support these beliefs in respect to our employees, authors, and the books and materials we publish.”


The controversy surrounding “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” highlights the ongoing battle for representation and diversity in children’s literature.

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