After a flurry of criticism, Scholastic is reversing a decision to allow school districts to exclude books that deal with race, LGBTQ and other issues related to diversity from the publisher’s popular book fairs.
The company hadas a way to allow teachers and schools in 30 states with pending or existing laws that seek to bar some types of content from schools to continue hosting the sales events. Scholastic said earlier this month that its “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection was necessary in states that prohibit “certain kinds of books” from schools. The collection included picture books about civil rights icon John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown.
The publisher’s collection was designed as a way to allow the company to continue to operate its school book fairs in dozens of states restricting ideas or topics in schools, but free speech and children’s groups sounded their alarm at the decision. PEN America, a group that represents literature and free speech, said it viewed the separate group of diverse books with “dismay” and urged Scholastic to “explore other solutions.”
Scholastic on Wednesday said it would end the “Share Every Story” collection beginning in January, acknowledging that the separate group of diverse books “caused confusion and feelings of exclusion.”
“The ‘Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice’ collection will not be offered with our next season in January,” the company said in its statement. “As we reconsider how to make our book fairs available to all kids, we will keep in mind the needs of our educators facing local content restrictions and the children we serve.”
It added, “It is unsettling that the current divisive landscape in the U.S. is creating an environment that could deny any child access to books, or that teachers could be penalized for creating access to all stories for their students.”
Scholastic’s book fair business has faced pressure in recent years from some conservatives for its book selection, while the pandemic, which shut down schools across the nation, also badly damaged its financial performance. In its most recent quarter, sales at its book fair unit were down 4% from a year earlier.
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