The Scholastic Book Fair Seems To Be Hiding Behind 'Protecting Teachers' Instead Of Taking A Clear Stand Against Banning Books

Their recent decision to essentially help schools ban books seems to be part of a bigger pattern.

kids reading amid scholastic's response to banned books pixelshot,  thomas-bethge,  Amrit Pal Singh, Marbury | Canva

The Scholastic Book Fair is among many people's fondest childhood memories and a highlight of many youngsters' entire school years. But children's books have become heavily politicized in America in recent years, with books about the LGBTQ+ community and topics like racism being banned in many school systems by right-wing activists.

Scholastic has of course heard the uproar, and its surprising response has not only left teachers, parents and writers furious, but also threatens to upend the Book Fair forever.


Scholastic's response to book bans seems to be to hide behind claims of protecting teachers instead of taking a stand. 

According to CBS News, in just the two years between 2020 and 2022, the number of books banned in US schools and libraries rose a shocking 1100%. A staggering 2,500 books were banned during that period, nearly all of them pertaining to issues of race, gender, sexuality and/or LGBTQ+ issues, despite 70% of parents objecting to such bans.

These book bans, of course, put children's book publishers like Scholastic in a difficult position. And for its part, Scholastic seems to have chosen to leverage the confusion, anger and fear associated with the book bans to duck out of taking a stand against the censorship that threatens its own bottom line as a book publisher.


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Scholastic announced it is removing books about race, LGBTQ+ and other 'diverse' topics from its Book Fairs claiming it will protect teachers from legal jeopardy.

On Friday, October 13 at 6:30 PM, long after the news cycle had died down for the weekend and people would be starting their weekend not paying attention to the news, Scholastic announced that it would be removing books on "diverse" topics from their Book Fair packages unless the teachers and librarians ordering them specifically requested they be included. 

In explaining its decision, Scholastic cited "enacted or pending legislation in 30 states prohibiting certain kinds of books from being in schools — mostly LGBTQIA+ titles and books that engage with the presence of racism in our country" left them with two options: "back away from these titles or risk making teachers, librarians, and volunteers vulnerable to being fired, sued, or prosecuted."


Many of the book bans enacted in the US have been the result of waves of legislation in many states censoring what teachers are allowed to teach and discuss in class, most infamously Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law. That law forbids "discussion" or "instruction" pertaining to "sexual orientation" of "gender identity" from kindergarten to third grade or "in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

But crucially, the law does not define what any of those terms mean, leaving what is "age or developmentally appropriate" or even what constitutes "instruction" and "discussion" entirely up to interpretation — by not just teachers and administrators but students and parents themselves, who are empowered by the law to sue teachers and school systems for any perceived breach without any burden of proof.

Understandably, this vagueness and the potential legal jeopardy it (probably intentionally) presents has sparked massive confusion among school systems — not just in Florida but all over the country, since many states have designed their own laws to emulate Florida's.

RELATED: How Books Bans Are Threatening American Education But Helping Politicians


Rather than stand up to censorship, Scholastic has responded by making 'diverse' books a separate 'collection' for its Book Fairs.

In its announcement, Scholastic explained that it is responding to this sticky legal environment by creating a separate "collection" of books about hot-button topics called "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" for our U.S. elementary school fairs" in order to protect teachers and librarians from legal blowback.

"We don’t pretend this solution is perfect," the company wrote, "but the other option would be to not offer these books at all – which is not something we’d consider." But education professionals, as well as several Scholastic employees, have been left furious by the decision.

"Or you could plant both feet, next to the librarians and teachers who have supported you, and the readers who loved you, and refuse to change a [expletive] thing," one angry parent wrote to the company on Twitter.


Others pointed out the unintended consequences of this choice, like prioritizing books about non-controversial characters like animals over stories about queer and non-white people — who are of course also among the students purchasing books at the Book Fairs.

Critics have also pointed out that Scholastic's approach to "diverse" book titles will likely make it vastly more difficult for LGBTQ+ authors and writers of color to get their books published in an industry where diverse voices in all genres of literature are already severely underrepresented. 


Librarian and social media influencer Mychal Threets responded to Scholastic's move by saying that it is not the company's job or place to manage what kind of books are chosen by schools and librarians. In a TikTok, he urged the company to "let us decide how we're willing to fight and what we're fighting for!"



He instead implored the company to "join us" as the "powerhouse" of the publishing world when it comes to children's books. "Use your voice," he urged. But Scholastic has made it clear it has no intention of doing so, and in light of other recent events in its past, that's not exactly surprising.

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Scholastic's response to book bans is part of a wider pattern of censorship and capitulation to right-wing political attacks.

Sadly, Scholastic's decision is only the latest chapter in what seems to be a pattern of drifting away from its stated ideals. For starters, teachers and librarians have reported that even when they've gone through the process to opt-in for the "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" collection — which one teacher has derisively likened to having to push a "bigotry button" while making a purchase — it has arrived after their Scholastic Book Fair was already over.



This comes on the heels of a controversy that erupted earlier this year when Scholastic made a licensing offer to author Maggie Tokuda-Hall contingent upon her removing a reference to "virulent racism" in her children's book about the Japanese internment, "Love in the Library." Tokuda-Hall's response? "Absolutely the [expletive] not." 



Asking an author not to talk about racism in a book about how Japanese people were rounded up and incarcerated in camps is so beyond absurd it makes you wonder what exactly could possibly be going on at Scholastic. One clue is that far-right conservatives have begun their own competitors to Scholastic, including the publishing companies Heroes of Liberty and Brave Books.


It seems as though Scholastic has decided that not offending the extremely vocal but tiny minority (remember that 70% statistic above?) of conservatives angry about "woke" children's books is the better path to success than taking a stand against book bans. Which is pretty stupid, since a Washington Post investigation found that the majority of book ban demands during the 2021-2022 school year came from just 11—yes, 11 — people making an outsized ruckus.

It is not Scholatic's job to oversee the legal affairs of America's teachers and librarians. And as a billion-dollar company, Scholastic is uniquely suited to enact change by lobbying governments to stop the insane wave of teacher censorships and book bans sweeping the nation—and potentially hobbling its own business in the future.


Instead, the company has chosen what it seems to think is the path of least resistance by capitulating to a vocal minority aligned against its own interests. What exactly that will accomplish besides biting the hands of the "diverse" teachers, librarians, writers, parents and students that feed them is anyone's guess.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.