What Johnny Can't Read

Parental protests are only the latest reason teachers shy away from books that might stir controversy

The story was a headshaker. Ruth Sherman, a white Brooklyn, N.Y., elementary school teacher, assigned her class a book called Nappy Hair, about a little girl's proud acceptance of her coily mane, in order to bolster the self-esteem of her black and Latino charges. But some parents, after seeing only a few photocopied pages, assumed the book was a racist put-down and essentially ran Sherman out of the school. Most New Yorkers were torn between amazement at the brouhaha and pity for the children, who have lost a good teacher. But for Trevelyn Jones, book-review editor of the School Library Journal,...

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