Is Mention Of Breast-feeding Appropriate In School Book?

Father Thinks Not

Panel, School Board Ultimately Decide

April 12, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

A coming-of-age novel, "Jacob Have I Loved" is about the daughter ofa crabber growing up on the Chesapeake Bay, becoming a nurse, and atthe end, delivering a pair of twins for a poor, snowbound rural family.

But that last scene offended one father, who thinks it inappropriate for the eighth-graders of Carroll County public schools, because it briefly mentions breast-feeding.

So begins the season of textbook adoption.

"Jacob Have I Loved," written in 1980 by Katherine Paterson, has won a Newberry Medal, considered by educators and libraries to be the most prestigious awardfor children's literature.

The father had complained to school administrators, who suggested he speak directly to the 80 to 90 membersof the Curriculum Council at their March 12 meeting, which he did.

So far, no other complaints have come from the public on that or any other book, said Gary Dunkleberger, director of curriculum. But he said there could be other complaints or letters until the May 14 meeting.

At the meeting, the council will vote on books it will recommend to the Board of Education, which will make final adoption at its June 10 meeting.

Anyone who wants to read the books up for consideration this year and comment may find them at the resource center, onthe ground floor of Westminster High School. The entrance is near the tennis courts.

Only members of the Curriculum Council may check out copies of the books.

The council is made up of parents from each school, principals and teachers from each level, students from each high school and other community members.

It meets quarterly, andwill meet next May 14 to approve the current list of more than 500 books teachers can choose from to use next year.

Most of the 500 books are "trade books," such as novels that are not textbooks. Textbooks used by teachers in reading classes include lists of trade books students can read to build on a theme, such as an issue or one author's work.

Board of Education President Cheryl A. McFalls complained at the board's last meeting Wednesday that there are too many books on this year's list for her and fellow members to screen.

But two members, Carolyn Scott and John D. Myers Jr., said they felt it was not the board's role to screen all the books, but to vote based on the recommendations of the professional staff and Curriculum Council.

"The Curriculum Council and teachers should make that decision," Myers said.

The board can always get involved on the rare occasions when an approved book is still questioned by a parent, he said. Every year a few concerns arise about some books, said Joanne Strohmer, supervisor of reading and language arts.

The number of books up for approval this year is larger because teachers are following the trend of using more trade books, she said.

Strohmer said students won't read all the books listed for their grade, but that they and teachers will have more variety and choice in what each student reads.

"I have received some positive comments, that children are having a chance to read real books and having a chance to deal with issues," Strohmer said.

"In order to think at a higher level, you need to have something to think about, and literature is a great avenue for that," Strohmer said.

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