Friday, October 22, 2010

Scholastic Turns 90

In most places around the world, chances are you have heard of Scholastic Inc. Indeed, it is the largest publisher and distributor of children's books in the world. Of course, Scholastic does more than publish children's books. It also publishes several various magazines for the classroom, such as Scholastic News and Let's Find Out. It also owns Weston Woods Studios, which produces films and audio books for children, Tom Snyder Productions, which produces educational software for children, and book publisher Arthur A. Levine Books. Of course, for many Americans Scholastic may be most familiar through its Book Clubs division, book clubs through which children can buy discounted books through the classroom.

Scholastic Inc. was founded on October 22, 1920 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by M. R. Robinson. Its first publication was The Western Pennsylvania Scholastic, which covered high school sports and was founded on that day. It was in 1922 that Scholastic Inc. went national with The Scholastic, a classroom magazine meant to educate children on the news of the day. In 1923 the Scholastic Writing Awards would be established as part of The Scholastic. This would lead to the first book published by Scholastic, in 1926. It entitled Saplings, it collected the best material from the various Scholastic Writing Awards winners.

In the Thirties, Scholastic would expand with the publication of the magazine Scholastic Coach, meant for high school and college coaches. The magazine is still being published today, making it Scholastic's longest running magazine. In 1937 Scholastic expanded into the junior high market with Junior Scholastic, which remains one of the company's oldest publications

Following World War II Scholastic would add more publications, including Scholastic Teacher, Prep, and Literary Cavalcade. It would be in 1948 that Scholastic would enter into a joint venture with paperback publisher Pocket Books to create their first Book Club, T.A.B. ("Teen Age Book Club"). The book clubs would prove extremely successful, so that Scholastic would add more over the years. It was in 1957 that Scholastic created their Arrow Book Club, currently serving fourth to sixth grades. It was in 1961 that the Lucky Book Club, serving second to third grades, was launched. In 1966 Scholastic launched its Seesaw Book Club, centred on kindergarten and first grade. Since then the Scholastic Book Clubs have expanded even more. In 1994 Scholastic acquired one of their competitors, Trumpet Book Clubs. In 2003 they acquired another competitor, Troll Book Clubs.

It was in 1957 that Scholastic founded its first subsidiary outside the United States, Scholastic Canada. The company would expand into the United Kingdom and New Zealand in 1964, and Australia, in 1968. Today there are Scholastic subsidiaries around the world. Over the years Scholastic would also expand the number of magazines it published. News Time would be introduced in 1952, its first news magazine directed at elementary school. News Time would be the forerunner of the now familiar Scholastic News, which has editions published for every grade in elementary school. In 1964 Scholastic launched Scope, a magazine for struggling readers. From 1974 to 1992, Scholastic published Dynamite, which as a guide to pop culture for children. Dynamite was one of the few Scholastic magazines to be sold on newsstands. It was also sold through the Book Clubs.

It was in 1978 that Scholastic Productions was formed with the goal of producing children's television shows and feature films. Beginning with the TV series Voyagers, Scholastic Productions would go onto produce such shows as Charles in Charge, The Magic School Bus, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Word Girl. It would also produce such feature films as The Indian in the Cupboard (1995), Tuck Everlasting (2002), and The Golden Compass (2007).

It was in 1981 that Scholastic entered the book fair business by buying California Book Fairs. In 1983 Scholastic Book Fairs would go national after the company bought Great American Book Fairs. Since then Scholastic has continued to expand. In 1989 it bought Instructor, the oldest magazine for teachers, published since 1891. In 1993 Scholastic launched the Scholastic Network on AOL, the first online service for teachers and students. It was the direct forerunner of Scholastic's web site (launched in 1996). In 1996 Scholastic bought Weston Woods, which produces films and audio books for children. In 2001 Scholastic opened its first retail store in New York City. In 2004 it would open another in Scarsdale, New York. That same year Scholastic acquired Tom Snyder Productions. In 2002 Scholastic launched COOL (Clubs Ordering Online), which allows teachers and parents to order through the Book Clubs online.

Starting with a single magazine in 1920, Scholastic Inc. is now the largest publisher of children's books in the world. Indeed, it owns the American publishing rights to the highly successful "Harry Potter" series, as well as such successful series as "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series, "Goosebumps" series, "Baby Sitter's Club" series, and others. It seems quite likely that since 1960 there have been very few American children who have not been touched by Scholastic, either through Scholsatic News, the Scholastic Books, or, most likely both. I remember reading both Scholastic News and Dynamite growing up, as well as buying books through the Book Clubs (indeed, I bought my first book by Ian Fleming through the Book Clubs--Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). Of course, today Scholastic has a bigger impact on my life than it did when I was a child, given I have worked for them for six years now. I can't think of any company I would rather work for.

1 comment:

Raquel Stecher said...

Oh Scholastic. I have not worked directly with Scholastic, but the printing and selling of Harry Potter affected my career in the book industry in various ways.

Thanks for this overview of Scholastic's history!