- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Parents of elementary school students in one Florida county are pushing to remove two books about conflict in the Middle East from school bookshelves.

The Florida Times-Union (https://bit.ly/1OokKtk ) reported on Sunday that some Duval County parents have signed a petition seeking to ban the children’s books “Nasreen’s Secret School” and “The Librarian of Basra.”

Some parents say the books are inappropriate for young children because they deal with war. Other parents have objected to the books saying that they promote prayer to a non-Christian god. The parents recently petitioned the school district to remove the two books.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said banning books sets a bad precedent.

“We are walking up a slippery slope when we start to decide what books we are going to ban from the curriculum,” Vitti said.

The books are part of the district’s recently adopted Engage New York curriculum, a digitally-based learning program aligned to the new Florida State Standards

A synopsis of both books on Amazon.com describes “Nasreen’s Secret School” as the story of a little girl with a grandmother who “risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls” in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. “The Librarian of Basra” is based on the life of Iraqi librarian Alia Muhammad Baker who struggles to save her community’s book collection, which she fears in the midst of war “will be destroyed forever.”

School Board Member Becki Couch was the only board member to vote against the district’s reading list. She said the books were not appropriate for young children.

“We are a military town,” she said. “Some of our children have parents who have been to Iraq.”

Dianne Haines Roberts, a grandparent of students at New Berlin Elementary School, also opposes the two books.

“We’re talking about third-graders and they’re very impressionable. . I don’t think they need to know the horrors of the world,” Roberts said.

But Devon Mears, the mother of a third-grader disagreed. She sees the resistance as an unwillingness to embrace a different culture.

“I question if they even read the book,” she said.


Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, https://www.jacksonville.com

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