Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Peel School Board Committee to Review Award-Winning Novel

The Toronto Star reported that the award-winning novel Snow Falling on Cedars has been pulled from the Peel Catholic School Board, Ontario's high school library shelves following a parent's complaint about its sexual content. The novel describes a married couple's first sexual encounter and an encounter between two youths. According to the CBC, an anonymous letter of complaint was received and school board spokesman Bruce Campbell stated that the board believes it came from a parent.

So many challenges are received from parents who haven't actually read the book in question but this is the first time I have heard of a school board taking such a knee-jerk approach to an anonymous letter. If this parent is so concerned, why were they not concerned enough to sign a name?

The novel by David Guterson was part of the grade 11 curriculum and explores issues such as racism towards Japanese-Americans following World War II. Officials have removed the book until it can be reviewed by a board committee. The school board's policy with regard to challenged books states that complaints about books and resources that aren't resolved at the local level must be reviewed by a committee consisting of library services and religious education co-ordinators, two trustees, a parent and the superintendent of schools. The policy is used rarely and no one at the board can remember the last time it was used.

Shari Graydon, an author of two children's books on media literacy is quoted as saying,
Removing thoughtful fiction from the school library is like taking mashed potatoes out of the cafeteria when the problem is french fries at McDonald's.

A representative of Random House in Canada, publisher of the book, hadn't heard any complaints about the book in Canada. However, it has been challenged in the U.S. for its sexual content and also for its violence and exploration of racial issues.

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