Letter Opposing Removal of Award-Winning books from Elementary School Library


NCAC and ABFFE sent this letter to the Editors of the St. Petersburg Times in response to a report that two library books had been challenged at Turner Elemenatry School.

Re:      “Word in school library books angers New Tampa family” (March 17)

To the Editors:

We are concerned about efforts by one student’s parents to remove two books from the Turner Elementary School library, The Land by Newbery Medal-winning author Mildred Taylor and The Starplace by Vicki Grove.  The parents object to the authors’ use of racial language. However, their views are not shared by all, and they have no right to tell other people what their children may read.

The books are highly recommended works of fiction about an important place and time in American history – the segregated South following the Civil War.  The Land addresses the challenges faced by the African-American protagonist when he tries to buy land in late 19th century Mississippi.  The Starplace brings to life the white protagonist’s awakening to the realities of racial violence and inequalities in her segregated community in 1960s Oklahoma.  Both books confront racial injustice head on and should be evaluated as a whole, rather than reduced to isolated words or passages.

While some parents may prefer to keep their children from reading books with racial language, even when contextualized in historical fiction, others may appreciate the opportunity to discuss this country’s difficult history of race relations.  No one has to read a book simply because it is on the library shelf.  The First Amendment gives all parents the opportunity to make choices about their children’s education.

Rebecca L. Zeidel tracks book censorship incidents for the National Coalition Against Censorship (ncac.org ) and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (www.abffe.com ), both located in New York, NY.

CC:      Hillsborough County School Board