By David T. Valentin
In an article published by Publisher’s Weekly today, Scholastic Books has decided to walk back their new policy of trying to “protect” schools from “censorship laws” and “book-banners’ demands.”
Scholastic, known for their in-school book fairs and being one of the largest publishers and distributor of children’s books both digitally and physically, announced this month their “special collection” of books which they called “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice,” which highlighted diverse and LGBTQ+ titles, would no longer singled out as book banners were allowed to opt out of receiving this package of books. Critics of the move said that when Scholastic moved their diverse titles into one option case, it would make it easier for book banners to target and ban books they deem too “controversial” for children.
Scholastic originally defended their decision, noting that they “Cannot make a decision for [their] school partners around what risks they are willing to take...”
But after prominent authors, illustrators and fellow publishing industry professionals organized protests of this new policy, Scholastic reversed its policy. As critics pointed out, “[M]any of the books in the offering—a case of 64 titles amplifying BIPOC, LGBTQ, disabled, and other diverse perspectives—were not controversial and were being wrongly treated as a dispensable option. Organizers at schools and libraries could opt out of receiving the Share Every Story case, and even when the case was included in a shipment, some said, Scholastic enclosed a flyer letting organizers know they might have received the case in error.”
Yesterday, October 24th, Scholastic Trade Publishing President Ellie Berger announced the reversal of this policy and addressed authors and illustrators on social media, apologizing for the controversial package branding. Berger wrote, “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.”
The program will be discontinued come January 2024, in the next “book fair season.”
In such a hostile political climate towards media that seeks to diversify perspectives and bring diverse voices to the table, it’s understandable for companies to guard their profits, hoping to appease investors and other financial interests. But as a publisher and distributor known for its wide variety of important and educational children’s books, it is unacceptable and unethical for any publisher and distributor with such a powerful influence to cave to bad-faith politicians and money interests. The time to choose money over access is no longer brushed over as much as it was prior to the 2020 pandemic. While progress has been slow, it’s clear that there’s a shift in what consumers and workers are willing to put up with, and complacency is not one of them.