- Scholastic, the largest publisher and distributor of children's books, is separating titles related to race and LGBTQ+ issues, making the collection optional for schools participating in its iconic book fairs nationwide. The move was prompted by enacted or pending legislation restricting the topics in curriculum in over 30 states, the publisher said in a statement last week.
- Titles in the separate collection include picture books on major Black figures like John Lewis, Ruby Bridges and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, along with titles related to other races and ethnicities, such as a Smithsonian anthology of influential Latines in U.S. history and a biography of Pakistani girls' activist Malala Yousafzai.
- The publisher said some schools in all states— even where LGBTQ+ and race-related restrictions have passed — have decided to make the collection available to students at their book fairs. However, many schools in states or localities with content restrictions are limiting it to hours when parents accompany children, Scholastic spokesperson Anne Sparkman said in an email.
Elementary schools and books for young children have come under particular scrutiny as curriculum restrictions have spread in recent years. Many of the restrictions were in fact introduced by politicians as measures to “save the children” from what they say are not age-appropriate topics.
In its announcement last week, Scholastic said "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."
"We cannot make a decision for our school partners around what risks they are willing to take, based on the state and local laws that apply to their district, so these topics and this collection have been part of many planning calls that happen in advance of shipping a fair," Scholastic said.
Multiple schools have resorted to requiring signed permission slips before students attend Scholastic's book fair, and some have even chosen to make the titles readily available for parents' viewing online. Scholastic's book fairs have been running for over 40 years nationwide and sell books to more than 35 million children every year.
The company's move to separate significant books related to race and LGBTQ+ issues represents the latest corporate response to state restrictions.
Publishing giant Penguin Random House in May sued a Florida school district after it removed books, including Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye," from public school libraries.
College Board's Advanced Placement program, meanwhile, came under public scrutiny earlier this year after Florida education officials said an AP African American Studies course lacked "educational value and historical accuracy" and claimed the organization changed the course's content based on the state's pushback. College Board disputed the claim, saying its revisions were "a standard part of any new AP course."
However, the company later apologized for the debacle, saying it had "learned from our mistakes" after Florida demanded the company review all of its 40 courses to ensure compliance with state curriculum restrictions on race and LGBTQ-related issues.
The request included that College Board change a longstanding AP Psychology course to exclude a section on gender and sexuality, which the organization ultimately declined.
However, College Board voiced concerns that educators in the state were put between a rock and a hard place in trying to teach the course while navigating state regulations.