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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Empty shelves: School culls old books, can't afford new books

A Maryland elementary school's library has colorful posters urging kids to read -- but not many books on the shelves, writes Theresa Vargas, a Washington Post columnist.


The state requires school libraries to remove old or damaged books every few years, says Jannie Cobb, media specialist at Oxon Hill Elementary. She'll remove 5 percent more of the school’s books by April. “You do want to have up-to-date collections,” said Cobb. But the school hasn't budgeted to buy new books. The high-poverty school's PTA is inactive, and fundraisers haven't brought in enough money.


Commenters say Oxon Hill gets $22,000 annually per student. You'd think that would pay for sufficient copies of Captain Underpants.


But I also wonder at the requirement that books be new. There are lots of great kids' books that aren't new. Even damaged books -- if no pages are missing -- can be taped up, read and enjoyed.


The American Library Association favors weeding out old books to make room on the shelves for newer ones, reports Harmonica on Citizens' Lighthouse. (Of course, that assumes insufficient shelf space.)


Librarians also remove books that are offensive to modern sensibilities, including classics such as the Little House on the Prairie series or Peter Pan, reports Scottie Andrew on CNN.

“Little House’s” stories of homesteading in the West and the Neverland adventures of a boy who flies but never ages are tales of daring, friendship and resolve. But both also contain racist depictions of Native Americans and fictional indigenous people, text that is often accompanied by offensive artwork in many editions.

If a classic is popular yet problematic, staff should attach a guide for discussing racism to the book, suggested librarian Kaitlin Frick in a blog post.

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6 Comments


rob
Feb 19

Seems like it would be simple to any true adult:


"Look, kid: there is no such thing as a 'bad word'. However, there are words that may be wrong, rude, impolite to a certain audience, or out of date. The way you talk to your friends when hanging out is not the same as the way you should talk to a respected elder, like your grandma. Always gauge your vocabulary to your audience. The words and expressions you should use in a job interview are very different from the ones that you use when insulting your peer during a basketball game. As an adult, you will be judged by your ability to get this right and shift your vocabular…


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buy
Feb 19

Looking at Great Schools, Oxon has a math proficiency rate of 9% and English of 25%. They have 228 students. With only 15 kids in a class, that would give them about 15 classrooms to staff. And with $22k per student, they have a budget of over $5 million. If salary and compensation for 15 teachers was $150k each a year, that leaves over $2.7 million for everything else.


Ann in L.A.

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Kelly Daly
Kelly Daly
Feb 19

How can we donate to the library fund?

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Heresolong
Heresolong
Feb 19

"also contain racist depictions"


at least according to the modern definition of racist.


If we swing by Merriam Webster, however,


<quote>racist : someone who holds the belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race</quote>


There may have been insensitive depictions of American Indians based on the social mores of the time, but racist? Racist now means "things that offend me about cultural minorities" however and since everything offends people these days, everything is (or can be) racist.

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bkwormtoo
Feb 18

I read aloud to my kids when they were growing up, a lot. When I read books such as the Little House series or Tom Sawyer, I used the objectionable-to-modern-sensibilities portions to teach that word meanings and intentions when using them do change over time and that some such words/phrases are unacceptable in modern usage (and, of course, that racism is reprehensible).

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