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NYC Third Graders To Read Books About War As Part Of New Curriculum

Content Will Not Be Required Reading; Many Parents Express Concerns
Cover of "The Librarian Of Basra" (credit: CBS 2)

Cover of “The Librarian Of Basra” (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City third graders could soon be reading books on bombings, weapons and war as part of a new curriculum approved by city and state education officials.

The Librarian of Basra” is a book about a librarian living in war-torn Iraq. It features illustrations of planes dropping bombs and soldiers with guns.

In the book, townspeople ask, “Will planes with bombs fill the sky?” “Will soldiers with guns fill the streets?” and “Who among us will die?”

The book is just one of several texts exploring war that could be introduced into New York City schools, CBS 2′s Amy Dardashtian reported Monday.

City and state education officials have approved the book for students as young as 8 years old as part of a curriculum that’s supposed to conform to a new national standard of learning called the “common core.” It emphasizes reading more non-fiction texts, but some parents said the content is a little too real.

“For third grade, it does seem kind of young to be learning about that,” one man said. “I feel that’s more for older kids to understand that kind of stuff that goes on in the world like that.”

“She’s in the first grade and I wouldn’t want them teaching that to her until she’s like in fifth grade,” another parent told CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the books are just one of many choices schools will have when piecing together curriculum.

“I think this one question or section that deals with the Middle East is something that’s obviously complex, but then we want our children to be able to talk and read about complex things that impact on their real lives,” Walcott said, adding it’s important for students, even as young as 8, to be exposed to real world issues.

“Television, the Internet, our children see things now on a regular basis and as a school system we have a responsibility to make sure that they have an opportunity to discuss these things,” Walcott said.

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere said he believes the controversial topic of war would be best presented to young students in a classroom.

“I think a lot of it is our fear as parents that our children are being presented with adult information, but I think our 8-year-olds have seen things that are much, much worse in a very unstructured way,” Gardere said.

But an early literacy development expert said the subject matter of the book is not appropriate for 8-year-olds

“One of the things we know, if children read books where they have no prior knowledge of the topic, they’re likely not to comprehend it or comprehend it well,” NYU Department of Learning Chairwoman Susan Neuman told WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond.

“It should be a parent’s decision to teach them about bombing and other things that are going on in the world right now,” parent Enid Johnson said.

Chancellor Walcott said the books would not be required reading. Each school and its parents would choose their own approved curriculum.

Expeditionary Learning was commissioned by the state and recommended the book to education officials.

The organization did not immediately comment on this report.

What do you think? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …