MARSHFIELD, Wis. — A school board member who fears a children's book about the Muppets is too graphic for young children will try to get the book removed from kindergarten curriculum at a Wednesday meeting between Marshfield school officials and community members.
Marshfield School Board member Mary Carney in July objected to the district's use of the book For Every Child a Better World by Jim Henson in kindergarten classes, The book, she contends, contains images of suffering children living in poverty and violence, including one illustration that shows a child living in a box in the rain. Some people have said they were traumatized after reading the book, according to Carney, who cited online reviews as evidence.
"I just have concerns that it's too graphic, even though these are Muppets characters," Carney said. "Unfortunately in this world there is a lot of war and strife and poverty; I understand that. I just don't know how appropriate that is to be teaching that to 5-year-olds."
Carney, who was elected to the school board in April, has previously raised concerns with the school's kindergarten through sixth grade social studies curriculum. As part of objecting to the Henson book in July, Carney also claimed the curriculum takes away teachers' autonomy and "downplays American exceptionalism" by focusing too much on global affairs.
As for the book, Carney wants it removed from the district's kindergarten social studies curriculum, which teachers are scheduled to use in early 2016. She is also asking that district administrators keep a closer watch on what books are being used in schools.
Teachers plan to read the book aloud in class as part of a segment aimed at helping students learn rules and how to be good citizens. The Muppets characterKermit the Frog narrates the book, according to Amazon.com, which says the story "teaches young readers about the plight of young children who lack the basic human necessities and the efforts of theUnited Nations to provide such essentials as housing, water, food, and medical aid."
School board Vice President Amber Leifheit, who heads the board's Curriculum and Instruction Committee, said no one aside from Carney has raised concerns about the book. In fact, Leifheit said, she read the book and found it acceptable.
"Looking at it, I do not have concerns," Leifheit said. "I believe it shows compassion for people other than yourself. I think that's a good thing."
A panel of school and community members who reviewed the book will gather for Wednesday's meeting, and they could make a recommendation about what to do with the book.
The school board will have the final say; it could remove the book from the kindergarten curriculum, keep the book or consider changes to the review process for how reading materials are selected.
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