After facing backlash, Scholastic has reversed course on its controversial decision to separate certain book titles in school fairs by race, gender or sexuality, allowing districts to opt in or out of the catalog.
The separate catalog, called Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice, was a response to dozens of state laws restricting how the topics are discussed in schools and which could threaten school districts, teachers or librarians.
In a public statement, Ellie Berger, the president of Scholastic Trade Publishing, apologized on behalf of the company to “every author, illustrator, licensor, educator, librarian, parent and reader who was hurt by our action”.
“Even if the decision was made with good intention, we understand now that it was a mistake to segregate diverse books in an elective case,” she said. “We recognize and acknowledge the pain caused, and that we have broken the trust of some of our publishing community, customers, friends, trusted partners and staff, and we also recognize that we will now need to regain that trust.”
The separate catalog will be discontinued with Scholastic’s new season in January, the statement added, and the company said it is is working on a “pivot plan” for current book fairs in the meantime: “We remain committed to the books in this collection and support their sale throughout our distribution channels.”
The Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice list comprised 64 titles on a range of topics by a diverse group of authors, and included biographies of the supreme court justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and the civil rights icon John Lewis; the memoir I Am Ruby Bridges, on the experience of desegregating schools; a picture book by the poet Amanda Gorman; a middle-grade novel about a Cherokee boy; and the disability-positive titles You Are Enough and You Are Loved.
The decision to separate the titles drew outrage from several groups and authors, including Gorman, who called the list “a betrayal” that was tantamount to “treating them as separate but equal”. PEN America, which called Scholastic a “valued partner”, publicly disagreed with the new catalog. “We call on Scholastic to explore other solutions so they can reject any role in accommodating these nefarious laws,” the organization said.
Color of Change, a racial justice advocacy group, said in a letter to Scholastic: “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.” The organization praised the company’s reversal on Wednesday with the hashtag #DefendBlackHistory.
Scholastic hosts about 120,000 book fairs annually, according to the publisher. The fairs generate about $200m in profits shared with schools and reach about 35 million children annually in all 50 states and internationally. In its statement, the company pledged “to stand with you as we redouble our efforts to combat the laws restricting children’s access to books”.