Here are the links to the press coverage:
Marietta Daily Journal- Father Upset After Child Finds Muslim Book at School Fair
My initial response was disbelief; however, the disbelief quickly grew to rage. I felt rage over the potential that a book might actually be removed from a book fair. I felt rage over the comments that the parent made regarding this beautiful children's book. But mostly, I felt rage over the sheer hatred that would precipitate such a request.
But, my rage quickly swelled into a call to action as I realized that this hatred stemmed mostly from a fear of the unknown. My call to action led me to write a letter to the school principal. I wrote to the school superintendent. I wrote to the appropriate school board representative. However, writing these letters did little to quell this overwhelming sense that I could and should be doing more to prevent this type of censorship.
In my debate on whether or not to blog about this topic, my biggest fear with writing a blog post was that it would turn into an attack of the person making the complaint. Even though this person may be the one making the request to have the book removed, the challenge to the books is indicative of a problem that is much bigger than him. I feel compelled to state that I don't want this or any discussion in the comments on my blog to be about him, but I would like to focus on the root cause of the challenge itself: fear and a lack of tolerance of other cultures and religions.
I think it is helpful to share with you a segment of what I wrote to the school representatives:
Ray Bradbury once wrote, "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches." While it seems completely unreasonable to burn a book, challenges to books found in libraries and book sales often are quieted to prevent the match from lighting a fire by removing the book from the shelves. From 1990 and 2000, individuals raised 6,364 challenges to books. This daunting statistic is what compels me to write this email.
[O]ne of the reasons we love the school is the diverse population. She goes to school with kids from different cultures, that speak different languages, and have different beliefs. We have raised our daughter to be kind and empathetic to her classmates, to learn from them, to listen to them with an open heart instead of shunning them away with fear. It is the fear that drives the request to have the book removed.
As a book fair volunteer, I watched as the children searched the shelves for books that were interesting, that were fun, and to which they could relate. Our school population has many Muslim students, and the students should not be taught that a book about their culture in a beautifully illustrated children's book is akin to terrorism, as [was] inferred from [the] comments [cited] in the paper. Also, there were many books about other religions and cultures available at the book fair, including books about Christmas, Hanukkah, and Greek Mythology, just to name a few. So [the] comment that there was not any representation from other cultures or religions is baseless.
I think Judy Blume put it best when she said, "Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear.”
I have complete faith that this school district will not let the fear of one man drive the decisions of the [School District]....“[I]t's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.” ―Judy Blume
I look forward to the next Scholastic book fair and seeing "Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors" on the shelf.It is my belief that if we ever hope to eliminate this fear, we must all commit to bringing books that represent a broad spectrum of cultures to our children. And, in the same breath, I challenge publishers to bring books to children that show them a true reflection of the world in which they are growing up.
If anything, the fact that Scholastic is bringing this beautiful book to the the book fair is a testament to Scholastic's commitment to address the persisting issue of a lack of diversity in children's books. I love this info-graphic from Tina Kugler (http://tinakugler.squarespace.com/) about the lack of diversity in children's books that were published in 2012. Diversity in children's books will help to create the tolerance that will prevent future challenges to books, which are based largely on fear.
While one person may "challenge" to have a book removed from the Scholastic Book fair, I feel compelled to place a challenge to the readers of my blog to become more aware of the "lit matches" running around in our community. We must defend our freedom to read. We must read about the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (http://www.ala.org/bbooks/). We must take action.
My commitment to this cause is so strong that I have purchased a copy of Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan to give away to one lucky reader, in the hopes that it will start a chain of people passing along beautiful books that will have a positive impact on a child's life. My hope is that you will share this story, take action, give a book to a child that will broaden their view of the world, and become a volunteer and voice for the next generation of readers.
Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! Mary V was the randomly selected winner of the contest.
Update: At the Spring Book Fair, in spite of the requests from our PTA to have the book included, this book unfortunately was NOT found at our book fair. This was a huge disappointment, and something I have been struggling with how to respond.
If you live locally, the fantastic Little Shop of Stories carries the book and has it in stock. Check it out. The store is tucked in the lovely downtown Decatur district.