Richard Robinson died at the age of 84; Educational turned into an empire

Richard Robinson, who acquired his father’s magazine company, Scholastic, and turned it into a behemoth in the children’s book industry with the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” series and titles such as “The Magic School Bus” and “Goosebumps” Changed. Died Saturday in Chilmark, Mass. on Martha’s Vineyard. He was 84 years old.

His son Maurice said the cause was a sudden stroke or a heart attack while Mr Robinson was out for a walk near the family home on the island. He lived in Greenwich Village.

Robinson, the company generated up to $1.6 billion in annual revenue to become the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world. Under his leadership it expanded its reach with print and digital instructional materials, remedial textbooks, educational and entertaining videos and software, three dozen magazines and reading clubs.

In addition to Joanna Cole and Bruce Deegan’s zany field trips on the “Magic School Bus” and RL Stine’s “Goosebumps” horror stories, the educational series includes Dave Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants.” Norman Bridwell’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and N. M. Martin’s “The Baby-sitters Club.”

In 2000 Scholastic acquired Growlier, one of the largest encyclopedia publishers.

Scholastic broke sales records by entering uncharted territory with Susan Collins’ young-adult dystopian novels in “The Hunger Games” trilogy, which remained on the New York Times best-seller list for more than 260 consecutive weeks, and American rights. By receiving the Boy Wizard at the Bologna Book Fair for JK Rowling’s blockbuster series on Harry Potter; Those books first appeared in the United States under the Arthur A. Levine imprint of Scholastic. Scholastic’s trade publishing division has sold 180 million copies of the Potter series since 1998.

Mr Robinson, who often said he considered reading a civil right, found himself in reviving books and promoting narrative storytelling as a powerful rival to video games in competition for children’s attention. Proud.

“The publication of the ‘Harry Potter’ books has changed the company and made it more visible,” he said. the new York Times in 2005. “But what everyone feels the most about Harry Potter is that it brought children into the reading process who were never readers.”

“Research says that children are more likely to make ends meet if they choose and own their books,” he said in 2017, when he accepted the Literary Award from the National Book Foundation.

He said that part of Scholastic’s mission was to address relevant public issues and even taboo topics in children’s literature.

“We are dealing with issues like global warming, racial inequality in a way that doesn’t polarize the issue, but gives views from both sides and is a balanced, neutral position, but not in the spirit of being soft,” They said. Associated Press last year. “Here’s what people are saying. Here are questions you can ask to build your perspective.”

In 2019, when he was honored by literary and human rights group PEN America, he did a recital of educational publications banned from the 1930s and added, “Despite these controversies and temporary restrictions, schools have relied on our balanced approach to helping young people gain a basic knowledge of their world, with the larger goal of helping children learn that a delicate How democracy is built and maintained.”

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a Twitter post on Sunday that Mr Robinson has left an “lasting legacy” as a supporter of libraries and reading.

Maurice Richard Robinson Jr. was born on May 15, 1937, to Maurice and Florence (Liddell) Robinson, and grew up in and around New York City.

her dad, returning from World War I and seeing an increase in high school enrollment, started his own magazine company, Western Pennsylvania Scholastic, in 1920. It didn’t become profitable until the 1950s, but the elder Mr. Robinson stuck with it.

“We are bigger than filling the bottom,” his son said.

Richard graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in government. He later studied at St. Catherine’s College, part of the University of Cambridge in England, and Teacher’s College at Columbia University.

“I wanted to be a writer, but stumbled a bit and thought I should get a job to support my writing, so I became a teacher for two years in Evanston, Ill.,” he told The Times in 2005.

In 1988, in a former interview With The Times, he said, “I taught kids who would graduate from Radcliffe Summa Cum Laude, kids who would get football scholarships, kids who would go to the Marines, kids who would go to prison.”

(A number of participants in Scholastic’s annual Student Arts and Writing Awards that rose to fame include Sylvia Plath, Bernard Malamud, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Avedon, Stephen King, John Lithgow, Ken Burns and Lena Dunham.)

Mr. Robinson joined Scholastic in 1962 as an associate editor. In 1974, Richard died suddenly after the man whose father was grooming him as his successor. A year later he was appointed chief executive and was elected president in 1982.

In addition to running Scholastic, Mr. Robinson served as president of the Association of American Publishers and in 1988 led the capital campaign for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s new home on West 83rd Street.

In 1986, he married Helen V. Benham, who worked for 33 years at Scholastic as editorial director, publisher, and corporate vice president; They divorced in 2003, but remained a confidant.

In addition to his son Maurice, known as Rees and who was an advisor to Scholastic, his survivors include another son, John, who also consulted with the company; a brother, William; and three sisters, Sue Morrill, Barbara Buckland and Dover Ford.

When he was a child, Mr. Robinson recalled, he would call his mother “The Little Engine That Can” and “Mr. Popper’s Penguin.” His favorite novel of all time, he told many times In 1999, James Joyce’s first novel, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, inspired him as the publisher of Scholastic.

Joyce’s novel was a coming-of-age story but by no means a children’s book. It does, however, begin many fictional stories with the words “Once Upon a Time” for younger readers.

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