Parent pushes book ban at local school

By Matt Porter

December 4, 2013 Updated Dec 4, 2013 at 7:39 PM EDT

Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) When Johnson City parent Jeannette Farr saw what her eight-year-old daughter was reading, she was shocked.

Illustrations of soldiers bombing villages, and terrorists kidnapping a girls father were just a few of the details Farr couldn't believe her third-grader was reading.

"It's scary. We don't have guns in our house, my kids don't see guns, my kids don't watch the news," Farr said.

The books are part of a list of suggested reading for new learning modules created by the state to help direct districts and schools on creating curriculums according to new Common Core standards.

The two books selected in Johnson City were "Nasreen's Secret School" and "The Librarian of Basra," both are based on true stories.

In "Nasreen's Secret School," the Taliban take control of an Afghan village and prevent girls from going to school.

After Nasreen's father is kidnapped and presumed killed, her grandmother smuggles her each day to an underground school where she can learn to read and write.

In "The Librarian of Basra," a librarian sneaks books out of a library during the U.S. bombings in Iraq.

The librarian works with members of the community to keep the books safe until the war is over and new library can be built.

Although each story has a positive message, Farr says the illustrations are too much.

"I was surprised at how graphic the photos were," she said.

She even suggested banning the books, at least for elementary school students.

But Liz Rosenberg, a children's author who has written dozens of books and reviewed the Librarian of Basra, thinks the books are a good fit.

"The book is really about bravery, one woman's heroism," Rosenberg said. "It's about community and the value of books."

She said the war is there to set a scene.

"It's a very uplifting and sweet book," Rosenberg said. "The war is kind of off to the side."

Johnson City superintendent Mary Kay Frys said she didn't know much about the book when it was recommended by New York State this year.

The book was part of the suggested lesson plan laid out on Engage New York, a website designed to aid schools in the transition to the Common Core.

"As the first time we were going through it, we decided to go with what was recommended with the module," Frys said.

Frys said the recommendations came out very late making a full review impossible.

She only read the book in full after the books were already delivered to the school.

Frys doesn't regret the decision, but said the school will carefully review books in the future.

"Now books are more available," she said. "So as books come in, we're reviewing them them beforehand. So we're moving on."

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