The renowned youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman has added her voice to a growing chorus of authors and writers who are criticizing global children’s book publisher Scholastic for allegedly permitting schools to remove books that address issues related to race and LGBTQ+ themes. Last week, the publisher faced allegations of yielding to right-wing demands by offering schools the option to exclude books authored by or about minority groups.
A Controversial Collection
Scholastic’s controversial move involved categorizing potentially “controversial” book titles into a single collection named “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice.” This collection gave individual schools the autonomy to decide whether to include or exclude these books in their local book fairs. Among the 64 books in this collection were works like “Justice Ketanji,” a short biography of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, “I Colour Myself Different” by athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick, and Amanda Gorman’s own children’s book, “Change Sings.”
Amanda Gorman’s Response
Amanda Gorman, known for her iconic recitation of a poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, expressed her dismay at Scholastic’s decision on social media. She tweeted, “Stunned that Scholastic Book Fairs is self-censoring the books in its ‘Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice,’ which are predominantly by queer, disabled, & Black & brown authors. This is not sharing our stories—it’s treating them as separate but equal.” Gorman also noted that her own book had been included in the opt-out collection, describing it as a betrayal of her childhood inspiration for writing children’s books.
Scholastic’s Response and Controversy
In response to allegations that they intentionally gave schools the option to exclude diverse books from their book fairs, Scholastic argued that they were in an “almost impossible dilemma.” They faced the choice of either withdrawing these titles or risking potential legal consequences for teachers, librarians, and volunteers. More than 30 US states have enacted or pending legislation that could result in the banning of certain books, particularly those dealing with LGBTQ+ or race issues. Scholastic emphasized its commitment to providing diverse books but acknowledged the imperfections in their solution.
This controversy has stirred frustration and disappointment among authors like Rebecca Burgess, whose LGBTQ+ romance-themed graphic novel, “Speak Up,” was also added to the collection. Many authors and readers worry about the impact on young minds and the accessibility of such books to a broader audience, as they face potential exclusion from school book fairs.
As the debate continues, the balancing act between freedom of expression and concerns about age-appropriateness and controversial themes remains a challenge for educational publishers like Scholastic.