Oct 18, 2023 - Economy & Business

Book ban attempts hit beloved Scholastic fairs

Illustration of a hand reaching for a row of books that are falling like dominoes.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The company behind the beloved Scholastic Book Fair is facing push back after making changes to its offerings in response to increasing book ban attempts across the U.S.

Driving the news: Scholastic, an educational company that publishes and distributes books for children and young adults, created a separate collection for its more diverse titles, allowing schools to opt in or out, or limit, their inclusion in elementary school fairs.

  • The move came in response to enacted or pending legislation in more than 30 states that prohibit certain books from being in schools – "mostly LGBTQIA+ titles and books that engage with the presence of racism in our country," Scholastic said in a statement explaining the decision.
  • Because the book fairs take place in schools, "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," the company said.

The big picture: Attempts to ban books reached record levels last year, with a vast majority of the targeted works written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ community.

  • Conservatives have taken to book bans as a rallying call in a culture war over what children should be exposed to.
  • There were more than 1,250 book challenges at school and public libraries across the U.S. last year, hitting an unparalleled 20-year record.

What they're saying: Literary nonprofit PEN America said in a statement that Scholastic's dilemma reflects an issue facing booksellers, teachers and librarians across the country, "who are being forced to play defense in a war against books."

  • "They reflect a climate in which vaguely-worded legislation is putting unique pressure on K-12 schools," the nonprofit added.
  • Still, PEN called on Scholastic, which it described as a valued partner, "to explore other solutions so they can reject any role in accommodating these nefarious laws and local pressures, or being an accessory to government censorship."

Zoom in: The "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" collection includes about 30 books, most of which address issues of race, gender and sexuality, per NPR.

  • They include The ABCs of Black History, biographies of late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and books by poet Amanda Gorman, former NFL player-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick, and dancer and LGBTQ icon Jojo Siwa, NPR reports.
  • Scholastic did not immediately respond to Axios' request for the list of book titles in the collection.

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