When author Tanisia Moore was growing up in California in the 1990s, the Scholastic Book Fair was one of the most exciting times of the year. Moore tells Rolling Stone she has fond memories of bringing a catalog home to her mother and pointing out different books she wanted to read. But she also remembers the feeling of being surrounded by books that didn’t really speak to her experience as a Black girl. Now a mother of three and an author, one of Moore’s proudest moments was when her picture book I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams was included in the Scholastic Book Fair. But following the recent announcement that Scholastic will separate some diverse book offerings as a response to book banning, Moore tells Rolling Stone she thinks the children’s-book company is capitulating in a time of great need, and doing children a disservice in the process. 

“I am highly perturbed by this news with the bookfair opt-in,” Moore tells Rolling Stone. “I don’t get to opt in to be Black. I’m Black 365 days a year, 366 days when it’s a leap year, and extra Black in February. So I don’t get to turn on and off my Blackness.”

While Scholastic is one of the largest children’s publishing companies, it also runs a national school book fair program that brings hundreds of books to elementary schools every year, and shares a portion of the profits directly with schools. The fair has always allowed schools to choose from additional catalogs to customize the experience but made headlines earlier this month when it announced it would separate out a large portion of its book fair offerings around race, sexuality, and gender into a separate catalog. This section, titled “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” is an add-on part of the book fair, and schools will only receive the books if they opt in. In a statement to Rolling Stone, Scholastic denied that every book about race, sexuality, and gender would be removed, but said the new catalog has been a direct response to dozens of schools banning books and the growing number of state laws restricting reading materials available at schools. 

Since the announcement, many corporations and authors have criticized Scholastic for seemingly allowing schools to “opt-out” of diversity. PEN America, a nonprofit focused on censorship and literature, shared their “dismay” over the news, and called for a different solution. “Despite the challenges of this climate, we call on Scholastic to explore other solutions so they can reject any role in accommodating these nefarious laws and local pressures, or being an accessory to government censorship,” PEN America said in a statement. “What we understand was conceived as a practical adaptation to keep book fairs going in a fraught legal and political climate is clearly at risk of being twisted to accomplish censorious ends.”

Moore was ecstatic when I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dream was published in September 2023 and was immediately included in the Scholastic book fair. She even got to see the book for herself during a fair at her kids’ school fair a few weeks ago. But its recent addition to the “Share Every Story” catalog now makes it optional for schools, and she tells Rolling Stone she’s frustrated and angry that less than a month after its release, a book written to help young Black boys might not reach them. 

“This [book] is my love letter to young readers, in particular Black boys, and reminding them of their legacy and hopefully sparking a conversation for them to dig a little deeper with grownups on how they can live out their own legacy,” Moore says. “That’s why I wrote the book. I know the people who are going to try to make the noise about, it don’t look like me, don’t look like my kids. And don’t look like the kids that I get to talk to about this book. And it’s unfair.” 

Moore, who lives in Georgia, says she’s no stranger to getting pushback on her book, which intertwines the history of famous civil rights activists Justice Thurgood Marshall and John Lewis with late pop culture figures like Nipsey Hussle and Chadwick Boseman. Some of the state’s largest school districts have developed vague and arbitrary laws prohibiting books on race and gender expression. But Moore tells Rolling Stone it’s still important to push for representation for kids, even when there’s political pressure.

Tosha Gaines

“When I became a mom, I really realized it was important that the books on their bookshelf look different than the ones that I had as a kid,” she says. “It just feels important to make sure that I’m diversifying their bookshelf so that they can see themselves on the pages, as a main character. And this [Scholastic decision] does a disservice to kids who might need to see this book, Black children in particular.” 


Through the ongoing criticism, Scholastic has said that their new optional catalog is an attempt to protect teachers and librarians who could lose their jobs or potentially be criminally charged over disputed materials. “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,” says Scholastic spokeswoman Anne Sparkman. But Moore maintains that giving schools an opportunity to deny kids books and information they might desperately need is letting a handful of politicians win, and could hurt kids in the long run. 

“We have to push back and not cater to racist ideologies that continue to fuel this country,” Moore says. “At some point, we have to take a stand.”