Dana Rudolph

Scholastic Bans Book with Lesbian Moms from Book Fairs

Filed By Dana Rudolph | October 26, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement
Tags: banned books, lauren myracle, love ya bunches, scholastic

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:

Investor Relations
Strategic Development
(212) 343-6741
investor_relations@scholastic.com

(Thanks, Roger!)


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I made sure to Twitter the link to the petition and put it on Facebook. I had several people leave messages that they'd signed the petition because they saw it on my FB. I'd suggest everyone use the Facebook button above to add it to their own profiles and let's see if we can't blow away the expectation of only sending 500 e-mails.

We've blown it away already--but we're not stopping. As of 10 a.m. ET on Monday, there are over 2100 e-mails, and they've upped the expectation to 5000.

Dana,

Scholastic has been getting a free ride for years. Their HRC Corporate Equality Index is all of 50. That's right, 50 for a company headquartered in Manhattan! I've brought their policies to the attention of my local school board (San Francisco, yet) and no one bothered to bring it up at the meetings. Scholastic has long ago learned in the world of education publishing, bribery and payola goes a long way. As a result, even districts which might normally question what Scholastic does (and believe me, the offerings at the standard Book Fair are mostly the dregs but, despite their fundraising facade, they generate a huge amount of income for the company) many otherwise progressive people in districts will keep their mouths shut about these scammers. You're so right Scholastic needs to be called out.

FYI, I just left a comment about it (and link to this post) on the Scholastic Parents Facebook site. http://www.facebook.com/scholasticparents?ref=search&sid=1007159328.1954075296..1&v=wall

Teachers, stop buying from Schoolastic until they make amends!

I signed the petition and have been following this story. I just got this message from Change.org

The petition WORKED! Yay!!

Victory: Scholastic Reverses Decision to Exclude Gay Friendly Book from Fairs
Hey everyone,

This is Mike Jones, Editor of the Gay Rights blog on Change.org, writing with great news.

Scholastic Books just responded to the petition you all signed on Change.org criticizing the company for excluding a book from their popular books fairs simply because one of the characters had two lesbian mothers. I'm happy to say that because of the collective strength of the 4,000 people who signed the petition, Scholastic has reversed their decision to exclude the book – Lauren Myracle's Luv Ya Bunches – and has released a statement affirming the dignity of gay and lesbian parents.

This is a great victory achieved in 48 hours, and it was only possible because of all of you who signed, advocated for, and spread the petition. Scholastic Books is one of the largest educational publishing outfits in the country, and this sends a clear message to children and parents everywhere that there's absolutely nothing wrong with two men or two women raising a child.

While Scholastic Books hasn't directly apologized for originally excluding Luv Ya Bunches, which they blocked in part because the author refused Scholastic's request that she include a heterosexual couple in the story, their statement today ensures that Luv Ya Bunches and other books with same sex parents as characters will be available at future book fairs. Moreover, the company has taken steps to avoid this issue in the future by committing "to a review process that considers all books equally regardless of their inclusion of LGBT characters and same sex parents."

Finally, the company publicly recognized that LGBT families and parents are a part of reality and shouldn't be hidden from kids, saying that "Scholastic editors recognize Milla's two moms as a positive and realistic aspect of the story."

As Lauren Myracle herself said at the height of this controversy, "Over 200,000 kids in America are raised by same-sex parents... It's not an issue to clean up or hide away." That's the message you all sent by signing this petition, and Scholastic Books heard you loud and clear.

Thanks for your support, and congratulations on yet another Change.org victory!

Mike