Monday, 21 June 2010

Shepherd’s Granddaughter Update

Book should stay, school board committee says

Final decision rests with education director

A special review committee has recommended that a controversial novel about the Mideast conflict remain available to grades 7 and 8 students in Toronto’s public schools.

The 11-member committee was struck in April after a parent made a formal complaint to the Toronto District School Board about The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, an award-winning book by Anne Laurel Carter that focuses on the life of a Palestinian farm girl.

The move came after B’nai Brith Canada had earlier asked the board to remove the book, which is not part of the curriculum but on the list for the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program. Staff determined the book should stay.

In a June 15 memo to education director Chris Spence, the review committee said the book met the criteria for approval. However, the committee recommends teachers should explicitly teach “critical literacy skills and encourage critical thinking,” to detect bias, point of view and explore complex and controversial issues from a variety of perspectives.

The final decision rests with Spence, and trustees are being asked to send their comments this week.

James Pasternak, Ward 5 trustee, called it “political propaganda in a novel form,” but is most concerned about violent passages including a dialogue about suicide bombing.

“We cannot afford as a school board, with impressionable kids, to have a book circulate that suggests that violence is a viable option for settling disagreements.”

Chris Spence can be reached at

The entire School Board, including Director Chris Spence, can be reached at the following addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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