CBLDF last week joined the Kids’ Right to Read Project to send a letter protesting the removal of Rainbow Rowell’s novel Eleanor & Park from the eighth grade curriculum in the Yamhill-Carlton School District in Oregon. The school board ignored its challenge policy when it voted to ban the book in January, but later backtracked and agreed to form a review committee as the policy requires.
While gathering information for the letter sent to YCSD Superintendent Charan Cline last week, KRRP learned that Eleanor & Park also has been removed from the library at the district’s single high school, even though the challenge was at the middle school level. (The library at the middle school had no copies of the book in the first place.) The challenge policy states that materials “generally” are not to be removed from use while under review, but does include a proviso that “in unusual circumstances the material may be removed temporarily.” The policy does not define exactly what might constitute “unusual circumstances,” but even in that case the book would need to be removed by a vote of the review committee which has not yet been formed.
In last week’s letter, KRRP pointed out this apparent contravention of policy and went on to detail the many pedagogical and legal justifications to keep the book in the classroom:
Decisions about instructional materials should serve all students in the District. This can best be accomplished if these decisions are made on sound educational grounds. Eleanor and Park is a critically acclaimed and widely taught novel that deftly explores themes such as love, race, bullying, body image, and abuse. It has won prestigious awards such as Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Book of the Year, Amazon’s Teen Book of the Year, and the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award, given annually to the best book for teens. It is recommended by its publisher for teenagers.
Indeed, students of this age value Eleanor and Park highly. In letters to Ms. Rowell, one teenager noted how Eleanor “is a strong role model for girls who are going through body-image issues, like I did,” and another praised the book for making her “reevaluate my life and ways I could get help.” Yet another student described it as “the first book that got me into reading.” (NCAC archives)
According to an article from the Yamhill Valley News-Register, the review committee will be appointed this month and will include “five community members along with a teacher, a librarian, an administrator and a student.” The challenge policy does not define a timeline for the reconsideration process, but we hope to hear good news from YCSD soon!
CBLDF is a sponsor of KRRP. We are joined on the letter by American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN America, and Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.
Check out the full letter from KRRP below.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.