Open Thread | Scholastic Book Fair – What’s With the Censorship?

As a kid, one of my fondest memories from school was when I got the little paper flyer, informing us that we were going to have a Book Fair, and all the options that would be there. I would sit with that flyer, intensely, and pick out the books that I wanted, and then proceeded to ask my parents for the money, explaining why I needed those particular books.

I grew up in an era before ‘ diversity’ in books became a reality. Any book centered around a character that wasn’t White definitely got on my list.
Things had changed tremendously by the time Peanut went to school. She could do an entire book order, dedicated to books whose characters looked like her.

So, imagine my horror and disgust when I saw a TikTok video about this:

For Book Fairs, Scholastic Will Separate Titles That Deal With Race and Gender
Schools can opt to display these books — or not. The list includes biographies of the civil rights icon John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

By Dana Goldstein
Oct. 16, 2023

Scholastic, the children’s book publisher, said that its elementary-school book fairs would now have a separate section for titles that deal with race, gender and sexuality — a response to dozens of state laws that restrict how those subjects are discussed in schools.

Those organizing book fairs can include — or exclude — that set of books, known as the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” catalog. School fairs can also choose to include specific books from the list.

The separate catalog of 64 titles includes a children’s biography of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson; a fantasy novel about a Lakota girl; a graphic novel featuring the Black Panther superhero; and a book about different family types, such as adoptive families and families with same-sex parents, according to a list provided by Scholastic.

Some contain basic history, such as “I Am Ruby Bridges,” about school integration, and “Because of You, John Lewis,” about the civil rights leader’s role in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

“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,” the publisher said last week in a statement.

Absolutely outrageous. None of these titles are CRT. They are about the truth about the lives of non-Whites in this country. Scholastic isn’t giving these books away. They are SELLING THEM. So, a parent has to give funds to their children for purchases. This is no different to me than going to the bookstore. This is just a portable bookstore set up in schools from time to time. Non-White children shouldn’t have to be beholden to Administrators in order to get books by and about people that look like them.

Dana Goldstein (@DanaGoldstein) posted at 3:24 PM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
Scholastic is allowing book fairs to opt out of 64 titles on race and gender, in response to red state laws restricting instruction. We saw the list. It includes a Black Panther graphic novel; biography of John Lewis; fantasy novel about a Lakota girl.

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:45 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
1. @Scholastic hosts 120K school book fairs annually

Facing pressure from the right, @Scholastic has created a collection of books w/LGBTQ characters or that discuss racism

Schools are then given the options of excluding these books

One librarian calls it a “bigot button”

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:49 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
2. @Scholastic ignored a request for a list of books included in the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection

But Popular Information identified many of the books included through photos posted by librarians and other sources

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:51 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
3. Among the books Scholastic is giving schools the opportunity to exclude is Justice Ketanji, a short biography of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. The book tells the story of how “Ketanji refused to let naysayers stop her from rising to the top.”

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:52 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
4. Also designated for the collection is Because of You, John Lewis: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. The book is the story of a boy, Tybre Faw, who learns of John Lewis’ historic fight for voting rights and becomes determined to meet him.

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:52 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
5. Also targeted are books that suggest acceptance or tolerance for LGBTQ people. The book All Are Welcome encourages the acceptance of all types of people and families. On one page, same-sex couples are depicted walking happily among many other couples.

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:53 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
6. Another book in the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection, Picture Day, is about a middle school student who cuts her hair before picture day. The book has a passage where a girl asks another girl to go to a dance.

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:56 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
8. @Scholastic says it had to segregate these books because “[t]here 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 & books that engage w/the presence of racism in our country.”

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 7:59 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
9. What laws does Scholastic believe would expose schools to liability for offering these books? Scholastic declined to answer the question.

About 15 states ban materials promoting Critical Race Theory. But a biography of John Lewis is not Critical Race Theory. It’s history.

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 8:00 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
10. A handful of states prohibit instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, including Florida. But Florida, which probably has the most expansive law, has made clear in legal filings that the prohibition does not apply to library books.

Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) posted at 8:01 AM on Mon, Oct 16, 2023:
11. @Scholastic’s contention that it must facilitate the censorship because of “pending legislation” is mystifying. There are countless bills filed at the state level each year. And there are many reasons those bills are not enacted into law.

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9 Responses to Open Thread | Scholastic Book Fair – What’s With the Censorship?

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