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Scholastic criticized for optional diverse book section

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(TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA) — The decision by children’s book publisher Scholastic to create a separate, optional section for its elementary school book fairs for titles written predominantly by and about people of color and LGBTQ people is meeting resistance from groups that oppose book bans.

The news comes as attempts to ban books spike across the country and as dozens of states continue to implement policies that restrict how the subjects of race, gender and sexual orientation are discussed in schools.

“Because Scholastic Book Fairs are invited into schools, where books can be purchased by kids on their own, 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,” Scholastic said about its decision to create a book section that schools can opt out of.

Scholastic’s “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” is made up of 64 titles, according to a preview of the list provided to EdWeek. The list includes books such as “I Am Ruby Bridges” by Ruby Bridges, “I Color Myself Different” by Colin Kaepernick, “She Dared: Malala Yousafzai” by Jenni L. Walsh, and more.

Scholastic argues that not all stories by LGBTQ authors and authors of color will be placed into the optional category.

The decision was criticized as censorship, with advocacy groups claiming the move will encourage those behind book bans and restrictive laws.

In the first eight months of the year, the American Library Association (ALA) recorded 695 attempts to censor library materials, impacting 1,915 unique book titles.

The vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or LGBTQ authors, according to the ALA.

“Censorship is anti-democratic and undermines one’s freedom to learn,” said the National Black Justice Coalition in a statement. “We condemn Scholastic for its decision to segregate books on race, gender, and sexuality at book fairs in a disappointing effort to appease a loud minority using politics to attack children and public schools to turn out voters using ignorance, fear, and hate.”

Color Of Change, a racial justice advocacy group, added: “The inclusion of Black and queer characters, authors, and stories in school book fairs is not optional. We call on Scholastic’s leadership to remove this exclusionary feature and commit to taking meaningful action to protect Black and LGBTQ books.”

Scholastic, alongside several other advocacy groups, recently signed an open letter against book bans. Several of the co-signers on that letter denounced Scholastic’s decision to create a separate section for such stories.

“Sequestering books on these topics risks depriving students and families of books that speak to them,” said PEN America, a nonprofit organization focused on free expression, arguing that book bans “deny the opportunity for all students to encounter diverse stories that increase empathy, understanding, and reflect the range of human experiences.”

But Scholastic said it had no other option.

Scholastic noted that more than 30 states across the country have either enacted or are considering restrictions on certain content in classrooms — including the topics of racism, race, gender, and LGBTQ identities. Therefore, it “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,” the organization said in a statement.

Their statement continued: “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. There is a wide range of diverse titles throughout every book fair, for every age level. And, we continue to offer diverse books throughout our middle school fairs, which remain unchanged.”

Several authors whose books are on the reported list condemned Scholastic’s move.

Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that her book’s inclusion in the section “is not sharing our stories — it’s treating them as separate but equal.”

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