Most of us with young children in public school know about Scholastic Book Fairs. Many of us remember them from our own childhoods. They are a pretty big deal at many schools. Scholastic sets up in the school cafeteria or gym for a few days and sells reasonably priced books, with some percentage of profits going back to the schools. Scholastic also provides schools with a boatload of other collateral teaching materials--my son brings home a Scholastic "newspaper" with simple stories and activities every week. The company is very much part of the infrastructure of American public education.
Now comes news that Scholastic has banned a book from the fairs because one of the characters has lesbian moms.
School Library Journal reports that Scholastic has refused to include Lauren Myracle's new book Luv Ya Bunches (Abrams/Amulet, 2009), about the friendship among four elementary school girls, "because it contains offensive language and same-sex parents of one of the main characters, Milla." Myracle's books have been on the American Library Association's list of the top 10 most challenged books, cited for "offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group."
In this instance, Myracle agreed to change some of the offensive language (mild stuff like "geez," "crap," "sucks," and "oh my God"), but refused to change the character's two moms:
"A child having same-sex parents is not offensive, in my mind, and shouldn't be 'cleaned up.'" says Myracle, adding that the book fair subsequently decided not to take on Luv Ya Bunches because they wanted to avoid letters of complaint from parents. "I find that appalling. I understand why they would want to avoid complaint letters--no one likes getting hated on--but shouldn't they be willing to evaluate the quality of the complaint? What, exactly, are children being protected against here?"
"Over 200,000 kids in America are raised by same-sex parents, just like Milla. It's not an issue to clean up or hide away," says Myracle. "In my opinion, it's not an 'issue' at all. The issue, as I see it, is that kids benefit hugely from seeing themselves reflected positively in the books they read. It's an extremely empowering and validating experience."
Scholastic says Love Ya Bunches will still be available in their Book Club catalog, and a spokesperson said, "the company will continue monitoring the book's popularity as well as the input from book fair field representatives to decide whether it should be included in future book fairs."
That sounds like a call to action for me. Get yourselves to your local book fairs and ask the field reps for Myracle's book, as well as others that depict LGBT families.
Change.org has also posted an action alert about this, complete with an easy automated petition you can sign and send to leaders at Scholastic. Already, several hundred people have done so.
You can also try Scholastic Investor Relations: