Spring 2024 Scholastic Book Fairs will integrate books that were controversially separated out this fall in a now-discontinued elementary school collection of titles related to diversity and LGBTQ+ issues, the company has announced.
Scholastic is also enhancing its book fair preview to include an online search option, so schools "can explore the books in advance of their fair," according to the announcement last week by the nation's largest publisher and distributor of children’s books. Schools will receive all books featured in the fair, but "may choose to make local merchandising decisions," said Scholastic spokesperson Anne Sparkman in an email to K-12 Dive.
While librarians and media specialists have always asked for book previews to plan high-interest displays or pick student favorites, for instance, schools have told Scholastic they now need to preview titles to navigate state and district policies, said Sparkman.
Scholastic announced in late October that it would walk back its decision to make titles related to race and LGBTQ+ issues optional, less than a month after the collection's initial announcement drew public scrutiny. Titles in the discontinued “Celebrating Voices Collection” included picture books on major Black figures like the late Rep. John Lewis, civil rights activist Ruby Bridges and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
In announcing the collection, Scholastic cited local laws that "create an almost impossible dilemma" for teachers and librarians to either back away from those titles or risk their profession. The separate collection was meant to help schools make these difficult decisions, the company said.
However, PEN America, a free speech organization that has rallied against curriculum restrictions and book bans, said in an October statement that "as difficult a bind as this pernicious legislation created, the right answer was not to become an accessory to censorship."
Ellie Berger, president of trade publishing at Scholastic, wrote in an apology letter to authors and illustrators, "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.”
A separate collection that "might make teachers and librarians vulnerable to serious legal and professional consequences is not the answer," the company added in its latest announcement last week.
The move is similar to another made by College Board earlier this year, when the testing developer said it blundered its rollout of an AP African American Studies course. The nonprofit came under fire after pushback from educators and the public led it to alter the course to remove instructional focuses or make some topics optional instead.
Scholastic’s book fairs , which have been running nationwide for over 40 years, sell books to more than 35 million children every year. Last year, the publisher held 96,000 book fairs in partnership with schools.