Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Dear Scholastic: This Is A Test

I have a lot of thoughts in my head this morning, about yesterday's #StepUpScholastic chat on Twitter, and about the Step Up Scholastic campaign, but I am starting with this:

Stone Fox is in 10 bks/$10 box
Last year, Scholastic, working with WNDB, put together a flyer of books specific to diversity. In theory, terrific marketing! BUT.

When I saw the first page of the flyer, I wasn't happy at all to see Stone Fox on it. That book has stereotyping of Native peoples in it, and as such, is the opposite of what kids need if they're to 1) see mirrors of who they are, or 2) see accurate depictions of those who are unlike themselves. With that book on there, Scholastic and WNDB are marketing a problematic book. Stone Fox is in the 10 BOOKS FOR $10 box on bottom right of the flyer shown here.

Late yesterday, Scholastic announced an expansion of its partnership with We Need Diverse Books. They're going to do eight flyers this year. Will these flyers have Stone Fox? Will they have books by Native writers? When I looked inside last year's flyer, I saw two books by Joseph Bruchac, but that's not enough.

Last year's partnership, and this expansion of that partnership, are steps in the right direction but if Scholastic is seriously committed to diversity and providing children with books that truly educate--rather than ones that miseducate children about Native peoples--here's what they need to do (saying they in this post but I know Scholastic is reading this, so I could say YOU instead):
  1. Acquire more books by Native writers and put those books in the flyers, all year long, not just in the special flyers about diversity. And on the teacher webpages. And in book fairs. Maximize the distribution, here and around the globe, too. Last night I learned a little about the flyers you publish around the globe. You're exporting stereotypes. That has to stop. 
  2. Seek out books by Native writers--books published by other publishers--and get them into the flyers. Do it now. Today. I understand there's "rights" issues associated with all this but also think that your billion+ revenue could be leveraged somehow to make this happen. Get them in the diversity flyers but in all flyers. Like I said above: all year round. Every grade level. Every month.
  3. Remove books that misrepresent Native peoples from all flyers and from their website, too. There's absolutely no reason to continue to market Island of the Blue Dolphins. Or Hiawatha (the one by Susan Jeffers). Or Touching Spirit Bear. Or Sign of the Beaver. Or The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. Or Julie of the Wolves. Or Indian in the Cupboard. Those are some of the books you distribute. STOP. And I know there are others, too. 
  4. Take some of that billion dollar revenue and hire people with expertise---not just in kidlit---but in Native Studies, to help you with all these tasks. I'm not asking you to hire me. But I think I can help you find people who would work with you. All this money you're making, right here on what used to be Native lands... come on. Step Up. 

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas has been doing some writing about distinctions between marketing, advocacy, and activism that I find helpful as we all live through these periods of fighting for change in what we get from the publishing industry. The Scholastic flyers are marketing. I think it is marketing borne from activism, but as I noted above, there's a lot more to do with what Scholastic publishes, and what they choose to market.

Some people think I hate Scholastic. Some people think I hate white people. Neither is true. Last night I did a series of tweets about how much I love Shadowshaper and If I Ever Get Out of Here. I wanna see several of the people who made those two books possible, working in-house at Scholastic, getting us more books like that.

I'll be waiting to see the new flyers. Not just the diversity ones. Every single one. They are a way to measure what Scholastic is doing. Doing content analyses of the flyers provide us with a way to test what Scholastic is doing. The flyers, as I view them, are a test that--if passed--could win back the trust they've lost.


My post from last year: Books to get (and avoid) from the WNDB/Scholastic Reading Club Collaboration

1 comment:

Beverly Slapin said...

And while you're at it, Scholastic, kindly remove the hideous, highly profitable SKIPPYJON JONES series from your marketing list. (You can find a review essay here: http://decoloresreviews.blogspot.com/2013/04/skippyjon-jones-and-big-bones.html).