A child reads a book among shelves of other books

What’s Going on With the Scholastic Book Fair?

The Scholastic Book Fair is a time-honored tradition for American schools everywhere. However, the fair has caused some controversy for seemingly censoring diverse books at schools in conservative areas.

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The Scholastic Book Fair has long been held up as an important educational resource for American school children. It allows them the freedom to choose what books they want to read and exposes them to titles and authors that may not be available in school or public libraries.

However, that same freedom is what conservative parents and politicians fear. Many conservatives are working to censor the books that their children have access to, for fear that it might expose them to things like queer families or diversity. Scholastic is just one of the many institutions under attack: public libraries, high school plays, even anti-censorship ad campaigns have been targeted by conservatives who don’t want their children (or anyone’s children) exposed to things that don’t fit in with their worldview.

Recently, people began noticing that Scholastic Book Fairs seemed to have caved to demands, with the books available tending to be less diverse in conservative areas.

After much speculation and criticism, Scholastic eventually released a statement in which it both denied and confirmed the censorship, stating that “laws [prohibiting diverse books] create an almost impossible dilemma: back away from these titles or risk making teachers, librarians, and volunteers vulnerable to being fired, sued, or prosecuted.”

Scholastic also indicated that its new “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection is meant to be a way of keeping the books on the shelves. However, a more thorough letter that was leaked eventually revealed that yes, the librarians and schools in question must opt-in to making the collection available.

This could have far-reaching implications for all kinds of schools, as it would just take one conservative librarian or school official to deny hundreds or thousands of children the chance to read books that reflect the diversity of the world. Now, Scholastic has finally rolled this decision back after ongoing backlash.

Scholastic changes course on “diverse” books decision

In a new statement, Scholastic Trade Publishing president Ellie Berger explained that the company will no longer separate these books, though there’s still no information on how they will deal with the current book banning landscape of the U.S., which she said “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 history of self-censorship

This is also far from the first time Scholastic has faced criticism for its stance on censorship.

The publisher has previously been accused of sanitizing history with books like A Birthday Cake for George Washington, as well as asking Maggie Tokuda-Hall to omit the word racism from her book about Japanese internment during World War II.

Tokuda-Hall told the publisher that it needs to “be braver” for the sake of all authors who write for Scholastic.

“As one of your top authors, I’m asking you to have more courage,” she said in an open letter to the publisher. “You cannot be quietly self-censoring. Whatever pressure you may be facing, know that your authors are facing even more pressure. And we’re still out here writing these books. Risking our lives. Bleeding to make you millions. Trying to write the books for the next generation that will hopefully improve the world.”

(featured image: Getty Images)

This article has been updated from its original version to reflect updates to this ongoing story.


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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.