It was a rainy Tuesday and I was one of several MS in Publishing students who ventured downtown into the heart of SoHo to tour Scholastic. The gray weather had us feeling a bit melancholic, but that changed to excited anticipation once we approached Scholastic’s headquarters and glimpsed the bright and cheery Clifford the Big Red Dog flag which welcomed us to the building.
The elegant edifice of 557 Broadway has witnessed the remarkable growth of the company over the past 100 years. The building was renovated just before the onset of COVID-19, and its new layout emphasizes Scholastic’s mission: to nurture young readers.
A nostalgic assembly of childhood characters welcomes all Scholastic visitors, including Captain Underpants, bursting through the wall in heroic fashion, and Ms. Frizzle in the Magic School Bus, driving her class into the very heart of adventure. Beside them is a dazzling, multicolored painting of the Mockingjay symbol, and the ceiling holds the original cover of the first Harry Potter book stunningly reproduced in stained glass.
Ian Pearce, the Recruiter for Trade Publishing & Education, greeted us and acted as our tour guide. He explained that the imaginative artwork adorning the hallways and corridors were all works by children who had won Scholastic Art and Writing Awards over the years. Organized by grade level, they offered a continuous reminder of Scholastic’s mission. The company's values are front and center throughout the building, with the corporate mission statement printed on the risers of the main staircase, emphasizing Scholastic’s commitment to the worth and dignity of every individual, and a respect for diversity, democracy, justice, and equality.
Adding to the playful ambiance, the conference rooms were named after beloved characters from Scholastic's vast library of books (my favorites were the Peeta Mellark and Hermione Granger meeting rooms). Another highlight was the Clifford Cafe, a cafeteria whimsically themed after Clifford the Big Red Dog with a panoramic view of the NYC skyline.
After the tour, we gathered into a conference room, where we had the pleasure of meeting with Seale Ballenger, Vice President of Publicity for Trade Publishing, and Jennifer Powell, Senior Director of Publishing Rights, who spoke in detail about Scholastic’s strategies for promoting childhood reading worldwide. We learned about Scholastic's trade publishing, book clubs, entertainment, classroom magazines, educational services, and international reach. From providing literacy curricula and classroom magazines, to producing educational media and popular children's content, Scholastic has left an indelible mark on countless young minds. We all reminisced about our elementary school days, each of us having a special memory to share about the Scholastic Book Fair.
Seale delved into the world of publicity, author tours, school visits, and the critical role Scholastic plays in promoting children's literature in the face of contemporary challenges like censorship and book bans. Jennifer shared a heartwarming example of Scholastic's commitment to this mission by working with Mongolian publishers to support at-risk languages, preserving native cultures through storytelling. A video featuring Dav Pilkey, the creator of Dog Man and Captain Underpants, on an international tour showed the joy of both children and parents upon meeting Dav, which reinforced the profound impact books can have on children, and how that impact can last for the rest of their lives.
As our visit drew to a close, we were gifted tote bags embellished with Clifford, commemorating 100 years of Scholastic.
The bright and merry Scholastic offices lifted all our spirits and as we exited the 557 Broadway and walked back into the rain, we were still reminiscing about our favorite childhood books. It felt like we had gone on an enchanting journey through the pages of Scholastic's history and witnessed firsthand their unwavering dedication to young readers worldwide. We departed with hearts brimming with nostalgia, gratitude, and a renewed appreciation for the magic of children's publishing.
Abigail Jordon is a current MS in Publishing grad student graduating in December 2023. She currently works at Other Press as a publicity assistant. Her goal is to one day be a children’s book editor, focusing on multicultural stories for black and brown children.