Posts Tagged #WNDB

The Scholastic Book Fair Situation

Middle Grade Authors
There are few school events that children look forward to as much as the annual Scholastic Book Fair. Library shelves get moved aside, and a big truck shows up to deliver boxes and boxes and boxes filled with all kinds of books. Children are excited, parents are nostalgic, and schools reap the benefits of a time-honored tradition. What could possibly go wrong?
red rectangle, white letters, scholastic logo

Well, in our current climate, books are being challenged in every state across the nation. Individuals are being empowered to call for the removal of books from library shelves, and children are losing access to books that are representative of many members of our diverse population. And now, the time-honored tradition of Scholastic Book Fairs has succumbed to the pressure created by the vocal minority who challenge diverse books.

 

The Controversy

 

In response to the growing number of book challenges across the country, Scholastic made the decision to separate books dealing with racism and sexuality from the rest of their merchandise. When planning their book fairs, schools could decide whether to “opt in” or “opt out” of making diverse books available.

Change Sings Amanda Gorman cover

The books that have been separated from the general inventory are being lumped together in a special collection called “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice.” According to Publisher’s Weekly, there are 64 books in the collection. If schools opt out, students are denied access to books like Amanda Gorman’s Change Sings, Kwame Alexander’s Booked, Denise Lewis Patrick’s Justice Ketanji, and Michael Hall’s Red: A Crayon’s Story.

 

Many librarians complained, and public outrage followed. Writers and educators used their social media platforms to reprimand Scholastic for bowing to political pressure and restricting access to diverse books. PEN America released a statement decrying Scholastic’s actions. Red Wine and Blue, a group of moms who stand against book banning, is circulating a petition that asks Scholastic to return the books to their regular collection.

 

PEN America says that the issue is “driven by a vocal minority demanding censorship.” The organization tracks book bans and has documented a significant rise in the number of books being challenged and restricted. According to NPR, book challenges and bans are most prevalent in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina. However, no state is immune to restrictions being placed upon books.

 

The Statement

 

In response to public outcry, Scholastic released a statement providing a rationale for their decision to allow schools to opt out of the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection. Among their reasons, Scholastic states the following:

There is now enacted or pending legislation in more than 30 U.S. 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. 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.”

 

The main premise for their decision seems to be that book challenges are placing schools in a difficult position. In order to continue offering their popular book fairs, the company claims that they need to provide a way for schools to adhere to complex state and local laws. They acknowledge that this is not a perfect solution, but they claim that without the ability to opt out of certain books, schools would be unable to host book fairs.

 

The Reality

 

A fifth grade teacher in Georgia was recently fired because she shared a book about gender identity with her students. That book had been available at her school’s Scholastic Book Fair. A middle school teacher in Texas was fired for sharing a graphic novel about Anne Frank with her eighth grade students. A high school English teacher in Oklahoma received death threats after sharing a QR code with her students that enabled them to access the Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned project. 

a stack of books chained together

Teachers, librarians, and volunteers are being fired, sued, and threatened for sharing diverse books with their students. Scholastic claims they are trying to help schools navigate these threats and still provide book fairs that bring in needed funds and put books in the hands of children. Critics disagree.

 

Critics accuse Scholastic of putting profit over principle. They argue that publishers need to stand strong in support of their authors and books. Across social media platforms, there is a demand for Scholastic to reverse the opt-out option and support access to diverse books. After all, critics argue, if your goal is to truly “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice,” you cannot hide some stories and voices because a vocal minority denounces them.

 

The Alternatives

When we think of book fairs, we think of Scholastic. There’s a good reason for that. Over 100,000 Scholastic book fairs are hosted each year, and they provide schools with funds for books and other resources. Scholastic is so dominant in the book fair market that it’s difficult for many schools to find viable options. However, outrage over the isolation of the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection has caused many librarians to look beyond Scholastic for book fair options.

 

While Scholastic is definitely the biggest player in the book fair market, there are other booksellers that host book fairs, including Literati and Barnes and Noble. Many publishers also host book fairs, but their collections might be more limited than what is offered by Scholastic.

shelves with books, red seats, people reading

Another option is the independent book store. During recent years, indie bookstores have seen a rise in popularity, and their followers have a deep sense of loyalty. Communities embrace them because they are known for promoting the open exchange of ideas and contributing to the local economy. They also usually provide access to a diverse collection of books and make their services available to local schools. 

 

Now, many communities are turning to their local bookstores as an option to book fairs hosted by the publishing giant. Independent bookstores have strong ties to their neighbors and understand the culture and needs of their communities. The personal attention they can offer is leading many librarians and schools to partner with their local indie bookstores. The indie alternative offers a personalized approach to hosting a book fair and a way to take a stand against Scholastic’s decision to give libraries and schools the choice to opt-out of including diverse books.

 

 

Pride Month in Middle Grade

Middle Grade Authors

June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate diversity and uplift LGBTQ+ voices. Fortunately, there are a growing number of ways that middle grade readers, authors, and illustrators can get involved.

pride reader

Artwork by Aixa Pérez-Prado

ALA’s Rainbow Book Month

The American Library Association’s Rainbow Book Month is an opportunity for book lovers and libraries to discover and share the very best in LGBTQ+ literature. Check out their Rainbow Book List. This resource showcases over 190 books for young readers from birth to age 18.

 

At a time when censorship threatens accessibility to books that support LGBTQ+ young people and their families, the ALA is dedicated to fighting censorship. “We know that there are individuals who will try to censor these books, but we offer this carefully curated list to the multitude of youth advocates working in our communities to connect young readers to the books that they so desperately need.”

 

Check out the full 2023 Rainbow Booklist!

Gray box, multi-colored books, text

The CBC Celebrates Pride 

The Children’s Book Council maintains an ongoing list of LGBTQ+ inclusive books appropriate for five different categories of young readers. Browse books for 8-11-year-olds here. For a more comprehensive assortment, check out the complete list of LGBTQ+ inclusive books for children and young people here.

 

Additionally, the CBC also offers home learning education packs for educators, parents, and caregivers. Through these learning packs, the CBC provides age-appropriate resources to support young learners in understanding that there are many different types of families.

 

For Young Adult readers, the CBC is focusing on graphic novels and comics. Their 2023 Celebrate Pride with Comics campaign highlights a list of new YA graphic novels. For comic book fans, they also showcase Marvel and DC comics that feature LGBTQ+ characters.

White box, rainbow stripe, CBC Diversity

LGBTQ Reads

 

Looking for a list of LGBTQ+ books for middle grade readers? Check out the LGBTQ Reads book list for middle grade readers. The site offers book lists sorted by age-level appropriateness, and the middle grade list is extensive!

 

The LGBTQ site is dedicated to promoting curated reading lists for all ages. They provide links to book details and purchasing platforms. According to their website, LGBTQ Reads works to update lists on a regular basis. They’re also open to feedback from authors who feel their books may need to be added or recategorized.

Multi-colored books with LGBTQ Reads text beneath

WNDB Walter Grant

The Walter Dean Myers Grant program provides grants of $2,000 each to promising diverse writers and illustrators who are currently unpublished. In addition to a grant for disabled writers, there are two Walter Grants being offered for trans writers and illustrators.

The submission window for Walter Grants opened on June 1 and will close on June 30. Find more information and links to the application by visiting the WNDB Walter Grant page.

badge logo for We Need Diverse Books - text with pink brush marks at top and botto
Within the world of middle grade books, there are so many opportunities to celebrate diversity and uplift LGBTQ+ voices!

News From the CBC

Middle Grade Authors

The mission of the Children’s Book Council (CBC) is to support the children’s publishing industry by connecting publishing professionals and creators with young readers. And they find a lot of ways to fulfill that mission. Take a look at some of the things the CBC is doing in the world of children’s books.

The CBC Diversity Initiative

White box, rainbow stripe, CBC Diversity

Founded in 2012, the CBC Diversity Initiative advocates for an inclusive and representative children’s publishing industry. The initiative is rooted in the belief that ALL children should see themselves and their worlds reflected in books. 

As part of this initiative, the CBC champions diverse book creators and their books, and they create and maintain diverse reading resource lists that can be used by teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents.

The #FReadom Movement

Letters to color in spelling #FReadom

The CBC actively supports #FReadom. This movement was launched by Texas librarians in 2021 as a way to combat book bannings. #FReadom resources are intended to highlight the positive impact of intellectual freedom, celebrate school libraries and librarians, and draw attention to the need to make diverse books available to young readers.

The CBC has made available six different coloring pages to support the #FReadom movement. Download the free coloring pages here

Children’s Book Week

Blue background, green and black book running gleefully, text "Read books. Spark change."

As part of their Every Child a Reader program, the CBC designates two separate weeks during the year to celebrate the joy of reading. Established in 1919, this is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. This year, Children’s Book Week will be celebrated May 1-7 and again November 6-12

This year’s theme for Children’s Book Week is Read Books. Spark change. You can download printable resources, including the free poster created by Rilla Alexander that speaks to the power of books and stories to inspire positive change.

Partnering with SLJGraphic illustrated, gray background, colorful characters, rainbow stream

In 2022, the CBC partnered with School Library Journal (SLJ) to create two posters celebrating the freedom to read. First, they worked with Penguin Random House and artist Rafael Lopex to create the “Open Books, Open Doors” poster to promote free expression and access to diverse books. You can download Lopez’s poster for free.

Next, they worked with artist Chan Chau to produce a poster themed “Imagining a world with you.”  The poster celebrates LGBTQIA+ children and teens, and it was showcased and made widely available by multiple organizations, including the CBC. You can download a copy of Chau’s poster for free.

Banned Books Week

Red book cover by yellow tape, text "Banned Books Week"

The CBC also partners with the American Library Association (ALA) to support and promote Banned Books Week. Launched in 1982, this annual observance has become more relevant now than ever. This year, Banned Books Week will be observed October 1-7. Mark your calendars!

Free downloads and information from last year’s Banned Books Week observance are still available on ALA’s website. While there, you can also find “Social Shareables” to show your support on multiple social media platforms.

Learn more about the Children’s Book Council and all their initiatives to promote free access to books and celebrate the power and wonder of books for young readers by visiting cbcbooks.org.