School Board Oks Five Books

August 18, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

The Carroll school board approved -- sometimes by one-vote margins -- the use of five books it pulled for review two months ago from a list of middle and high school instructional materials.

Some of the five board members had objected to the language and "sad" endings of some of the stories, and members also were wary of the treatments of blacks, Jews and developmentally disabled in the works of fiction.

The books are "Four Great Plays By Ibsen" and William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying," for use in high school English and writing classes,and "Welcome Home, Jellybean," "Runaway to Freedom" and "Alan and Naomi," for use in middle school reading classes.

"I don't think we should bury our heads in the sand," said board member Carolyn L. Scott. "These (issues) should be discussed in class. This needs to be talked about."

In choosing those books, Joanne C. Strohmer, Carroll'ssupervisor of reading/language arts, said she tried to get "real-life" children's literature. She said she selected books that were similar to students' own situations and some that took them to other places and times.

Strohmer said most of the responses she solicited forthe books from minority representatives and professional literature reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

It was the unhappy endings of "Alan and Naomi," a story by Myron Levoy about a New York boy askedto befriend a Jewish girl who witnessed the murder of her father by the Gestapo, and "Welcome Home, Jellybean" that drew concern from some board members. Each of the books was considered individually.

Cheryl A. McFalls and Ann M. Ballard voted against "Alan and Naomi."

The five-member board unanimously approved Marlene Fanta Shyer's "Welcome Home, Jellybean," which is about a family adapting to a developmentally disabled daughter returning home from an institution.

McFalls said her initial opposition to "Welcome Home, Jellybean" was changed by a letter that Robin Farinholt, Carroll County Education Center principal, wrote in support of the books. The Carroll County Association for Retarded Citizens Inc. and the disAbility Awareness Projectalso wrote letters in support of the book.

McFalls and Ballard also voted against "Runaway To Freedom," a story by Barbara Smucker about a black slave girl who escapes via the Underground Railroad, because they found the language racially offensive and inappropriate for middle school students.

Although the language is a concern, Strohmer said none of the books recommended by the staff is for individual reading. Rather, she said, the books are recommended for instructionalunits. The works will be discussed by the teacher.

McFalls was the lone board member to vote against Faulkner's novel and the Ibsen plays. Like members of the district's curriculum council, which comprises administrators, teachers and parents, McFalls had concerns about the language of those books and the topic of incest in an Ibsen play.

Unlike the controversy earlier this year that surrounded the board's review and eventual approval of "Gilgamesh," considered the oldestsurviving work of fiction, these five books drew no concerns from teachers, students or parents.

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