By Jeanette Winter
Reasons for Challenges: Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to age group, Violence.
This illustrated children’s book tells the story of Nasreen, a young girl living with her grandmother in Afghanistan during Taliban rule. Narrated by the grandmother, it’s a very honest story about the challenges the girl faced and about the power of having access to education.
Nasreen’s father is dragged away, her mother goes searching for him and never returns, and Nasreen withdraws from the world. Her world darkens and she stops smiling, she stops talking. Her grandmother finds a secret school for her, and there Nasreen finds a friend….
This is a powerful book, and presented in a very appropriate way for the target age audience. But, it is a story about an Islamic girl during war, there is mention of the Koran, there is a prayer said by the Grandmother and it ends with the phrase Insha’ Allah (translation: God Willing).
This book is features on some Common Core curriculum for 3rd grade so it is in a number of schools and physically put in the hands of children. This is a problem for some because they feel the topics of war are too much to expose children to at that age.
The claims that the story is too violent for children in third grade is the primary one put forth, but there is clearly also arguments against the religion of the characters.
“We are walking up a slippery slope when we start to decide what books we are going to ban from the curriculum.” – Nikolati Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools
There are statements made that it’s requiring the reading of a book “promoting prayer to someone other than God.” and that Christianity isn’t allowed in the school so why should any other religion (one, of course, doesn’t have to look very far to find examples and references to Christianity in any public venue in the US but, again, that’s another post altogether). One school district found parents claiming that their children were being made to remember a Muslim prayer due to the grandmothers prayer when she drops Nasreen off at school the first time.
“Please Allah, open her eyes to the world.” – Nasreen’s Grandmother
The story is about the power of knowledge, of learning. It’s about countering the removal of rights and freedom… and it’s a story I highly recommend reading. I’m glad that it’s in the curriculum so many places, that it’s being read by children in their schools.