'Hungry Caterpillar' is banned as school purges pre-2008 books
Books published before 2008 have been removed from school library shelves in a school district near Toronto, Canada, reports Nicole Brockbank and Angelina King for CBC News. Told by the provincial education ministry to weed out books that aren't "inclusive" and "equitable," Peel District librarians removed Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, the Harry Potter series and many more.
"There are rows and rows of empty shelves with absolutely no books," said Reina Takata, a 10th-grader at Erindale Secondary School. She estimates more than half the books are gone.
"The Peel District School Board works to ensure that the books available in our school libraries are culturally responsive, relevant, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of our school communities and the broader society," said the board in a statement. Apparently, few Peel students identify as caterpillars.
The first step in the district's "equitable curation cycle" is to review books published before 2008 to see if they're misleading, out of date, irrelevant or meritless. The second step is to evaluate whether the book promotes "anti-racism, cultural responsiveness and inclusivity." Books that make it past that must also reflect student diversity.
However, one trustee, Karla Bailey told the board that librarians had told "books are being weeded by the date, no other criteria."
Weeded-out books may not be donated, school board documents state. If books "are not inclusive, culturally responsive, relevant or accurate," then "they are not suitable for any learners," and would cause "harm." So they must be trashed.
Tipped off by teachers, a community group called Libraries not Landfills was created to challenge the purge.
The group's site links to the district's equity weeding guidelines, which tells librarians that retaining books they love is a sign they're putting their "personal biases" ahead of student needs.
I assume the beloved Canadian book Anne of Green Gables is out. It was written in 1908!
"Classics" are typically "Euro-centric texts that were penned long before students' birth dates, and may not reflect the lived experiences of students," the guidelines say. They may be "heteronormative and/or sexist."
After all, how many students have hidden in an attic to escape the Nazis or battled Lord Voldemort?
Don't worry that the new books will be dreary tracts, librarians were told. "The use of anti-racist, anti-oppressive, anti-colonialist" texts will evoke "genius and joy in all students."