Elementary school parents in Michigan were recently notified by Rockford Public Schools that a book available to their children at the upcoming Scholastic Book Fair includes reference to a gay character.
Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey, “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot” is the 12th book in the popular children’s book series.
Superintendent Michael Shibler told parents that a book fair was made possible each year in the district through Scholastic, which took place during parent-teacher conferences. He said that this fall a representative from Scholastic had met with library personnel from a variety of schools to discuss the inclusion of a “Captain Underpants” book that could be looked upon as controversial by some readers, reports Monica Scott for MLive. Publishers for the company said they found the content to be age-appropriate.
According to the letter parents received, the book makes a brief reference to the future, in which a character saw himself married to another man.
“Our goal is to encourage all children to learn to love to read in part by making available a wide array of titles for children to choose from. Children all across the country live in families with varied family structures and our authors are moved to portray these families in their books. While the author gives us a glimpse of Harold’s future and his partner, this is not the focus of the story,” reads the statement from Scholastic.
The statement went on to say that the company urges families to take an interest in what their children are reading in order to ensure that a book is not chosen that conflicts with family values.
Shibler added that all of those who enter the school are valued by the district. At the same time, the district believes that background information on material should be available to ensure that students are making purchases that are in line with family values.
While the letter did mention the book’s storyline, the district did not discourage parents from allowing their children to purchase the book, writes Ollie McAteer for The Metro.
“The only goal right now is to be completely transparent with parents,” Dr. Shibler said. “You need to be aware of the issue on this one page. If you’re fine with it, buy the book. If you’re not, don’t buy the book.”
Arborwood Elementary School in Monroe had the same book banned from its book fair this October. Monroe Schools Superintendent Barry Martin said that a Scholastic representative had informed the school of the potential controversy.
There are currently 8,000 students in Rockford, with 3,600 of those students enrolled in kindergarten through the fifth grade. The controversial book cannot be found on the shelves of any Rockford elementary libraries. The only place it can be seen is on a cart of books for sale by Scholastic to be purchased by either parents or students.