FIRST ON FOX BUSINESS: The conservative children's book publisher Heroes of Liberty – which publishes books about Ronald Reagan, Thomas Sowell, Amy Coney Barrett, and others – has launched a campaign warning parents about Scholastic Corporation, which Heroes of Liberty dubs the "Woketopus." In a statement to FOX Business, Scholastic denied having any agenda besides getting children to love reading.
"All over America, parents are waking up to the danger that a woke education system is having on their kids' mental health, not to mention their futures. What's happening in education isn't the biggest problem. The biggest problem is our culture, or, to be more precise, our children's bookshelves."
"You may think that your children are safe from woke indoctrination at home, but they're almost certainly not," Mandel warned. "Scholastic, a billion-dollar children's book juggernaut, turned into the most dangerous in youth culture. We call it the Woketopus."
Mandel said the Scholastic "woketopus" has "found a way to smuggle propaganda into your home right behind your back," by going straight to the schools and teachers, who recommend Scholastic books to kids. The "sketchy cultural diet" in these books does not include American values, but rather "gender fluidity," LGBTQ issues, critical race theory, "and other toxic ideas that will make your child sad and confused about their identity, sexuality, and heritage."
The Heroes of Liberty video shows various book covers, warning about the books "Magical Boy" (a pro-transgender book), "The Girl From the Sea" by Molly Knox Ostertag (which features a lesbian relationship), "Rick" by Alex Gino (a book about LGBTQ identities), and "This Book Is Anti-Racist" by Tiffany Jewell (a book pushing race activism).
"What is frustrating to me as a parent, it’s not just the books that are overtly sort of political in this way, there are also super award-winning books that kind of sneak it in," Mandel told FOX Business in an interview. She mentioned "When You Trap a Tiger" by Tae Keller, 2021 winner of the Newbery Medal.
The book included a subplot about the main character's sister identifying as bisexual, which "leads to questions you might not be ready or interested in answering with a young child," Mandel argued. "For a lot of parents, that kind of stuff is more frustrating."
In a statement to FOX Business, Scholastic denied having any agenda besides getting kids to read.
"The only agenda at Scholastic is to engage kids in a love of reading, in partnership with schools and families," Anne Sparkman, Scholastic's vice president of corporate communications, told FOX Business. "Throughout our more than 100 year history we’re proud to have brought generations books, magazines, and Scholastic book club and fair experiences as part of this mission."
"Our broad selection represents the many, many kids we serve from all backgrounds because every child should have access to stories that relate, inspire and inform," Sparkman added. "We will always respect the role of parents and teachers in the book selection process and in choosing the books that they feel are best for their children and students, while keeping an array of titles accessible to all children."
In another video provided to FOX Business, Mandel read a passage from the book "George" by Alex Gino – a book promoting transgender identity for children as young as 8 years old.
"George stopped. It was such a short, little question, but she couldn't make her mouth form the sounds. Mom, what if I'm a girl?" Mandel reads. The book mentions "a beautiful woman named Tina. … The interviewer said that Tina had been born a boy, then asked her whether she had had the surgery. … So George knew it could be done: a boy could become a girl. She had since read that you could take girl hormones that would change your body and you can get a bunch of different surgeries if you wanted them and had the money."
"These are serious steps, especially when you consider how frequently children decide that transition was not the right step," Mandel told FOX Business. "None of these things are harmless, they all have long-lasting implications." She noted that even gender therapists have raised red flags about the medical community's rush to affirm gender dysphoria in children.
"This book is spouting the party line of the extremists within the transgender ideology camp, and it’s dangerous psychologically, and it’s dangerous medically," Mandel warned, citing Abigail Shrier's book "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters."
Mandel argued that children's literature as a whole has become more "woke" due to a self-reinforcing cycle.
"The whole cycle feeds itself," she said. "The publishing houses, the editors are all woke, the agents know what the publishers want. The publishers know what the award companies want. The award companies know what the libraries want. No one cares what the parents want."
Heroes of Liberty partnered with No Left Turn in Education to expose Scholastic.
"The thousands and thousands of parents involved with us, they are searching for alternative books," Elana Fishbein, founder of No Left Turn in Education, told FOX Business. "If you go to school libraries or public libraries, your head spins around when you see the books that they’re using on racial issues, sexualizing kids, police hate. All those woke books, what I call poison, the amount makes you sick."
Fishbein said Scholastic has been "a consistent and growing concern." She noted that the publisher was once agreeable to everyone, at least seemingly neutral. "Not anymore. They very much became politicized," she said.
Fishbein mentioned books and articles in the publication Scholastic News that push the Black Lives Matter agenda, that push sexual issues for children, that present only the liberal side of issues such as climate change.
"It’s in 90% of the schools," she noted. "This is a monopoly. I don’t know of any other publication with this footprint in the school."