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Parents Push to Ban Children's Books with Middle Eastern Themes

The Short of It

A petition is circulating Duval County, Fla., to ban the children's books, "Nasreen's Secret School" and "The Librarian of Basra," from elementary schools because the stories describe the hardships of living in the Middle East, including war.

The Lowdown

Parents are worried that books talking about conflict are too difficult for elementary school children to understand and that some of the books promote worshiping a non-Christian god.

Both books, which are based on true stories and are written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, were also the focus of an unsuccessful book ban in New York in 2013. describes the books this way:

  • "Nasreen's Secret School" is 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.

"We are walking up a slippery slope when we start to decide what books we are going to ban from the curriculum," school superintendent Nikolai Vitti explained.

Only one school board member voted against the books. She was concerned because several military families live in the area, and the children have heard of the countries in the books.

The Upshot

I agree with the superintendent; once parents are allowed to ban specific titles, even more books will be questioned. The district currently has a list of 10 banned books that includes Roald Dahl's "Revolting Rhymes," Tom Robbins' "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." Which titles will be next?

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