Listed in Florida

This month, Florida’s Commissioner of Education released a back to school reading list. There’s been pushback on Twitter and in SLJ.  An important critique comes from @ofGlades, teens who actually live in Florida, who are acutely aware of the problematic books on the list and who go a step further to recommend books to the list. [edited 27 Aug]

I don’t see that there’s been any response to the criticism. I do know the list just doesn’t sit right with me. Here’s how the list was described when it was released.

Today, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran launched a new back-to-school reading list of his and Florida’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Dr. Dakeyan Chá Dré Graham’s favorite reads for students and teachers to consider in the upcoming school year. The list is comprised of top-of-the-line literary recommendations, with world-renowned titles from experts that makes it the best reading list in the nation. Highlighting rich historical nonfiction, classical and popular literature, and thought-provoking Florida-based works, the list has been carefully curated to have all students vying to dive into books this school year.

The good news here is that the list is one that teachers and students should consider the books, they aren’t required to use.

The bad news is in both the age of the books and the representation present in the books. Overall, they’re lacking in terms of disabilities, gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. But, there’s a very strong representation of imperialism and Whiteness.

What’s missing from this list is transparency. Who curated the list and what criteria did they use in creating it? Ask these sorts of questions when you look at book lists created for your own state.
Who are the people who created the list? For what purpose?
Whose voice was present creating the list?
Whose voice is represented in the list?
Who is silenced by the list?
How dated are the books and the sentiments they portray?
Whose interests might best be served by this list?
What ideological positions can you identify?
What moral or political position do the books represent?
What assumptions does the text make about age, gender, [class], and culture, including the age, gender, and culture, of its readers?

adapted from http://thedarkfantastic.blogspot.com/2015/02/diversifying-metaphors-we-read-by-why.html

Florida Demographics 2019
White: 75.67%
Black or African American: 16.13%
Asian: 2.68%
Other race: 2.64%
Two or more races: 2.54%
Native American: 0.28%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.06%
Hispanic or Latinx: 23%

The following is the list of books that were released this month. I’ve added their original publication date and links to articles on a few of the books that indicate just how problematic the books are. I’m certain several others deserve closer look. I really get annoyed by WordPress’s formatting!

Kindergarden – 2nd Grade

  1. A Child’s Garden of Verses ……………… Robert Louis Stevenson 1885
  2. A First Book of the Sea …………………….. Nicola Davies 2018
  3. Little House in the Big Woods ………… Laura Ingalls Wilder 1932 https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2006/09/little-house-on-prairie-yesterdays.html
  4. The Lion and the Mouse ………………….. Aesop 1534
  5. The Emperor’s New Clothes ……………. Hans Christian Andersen 1837
  6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar …………. Eric Carle 1969
  7. Love You Forever ………………………………… Robert Munsch 1986
  8. The Tale of Peter Rabbit ………………….. Beatrix Potter 1901
  9. Stellaluna ………………………………………………. Janel/ Cannon 1993
  10. The Ugly Duckling ……………………………… Hans Christian Andersen 1843
  11. Goodnight Moon ………………………………… Margaret Wise Brown 1947
  12. The Kissing Hand ………………………………. Audrey Penn 1993
  13. Llama Llama Red Pajama ……………….. Anna Dewdney 2005
  14. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie ………. Laura Numeroff 1985
  15. Where the Wild Things Are …………. Maurice Sendak 1963
  16. Curious George …………………………………… H.A. Rey 1941 https://www.bu.edu/writingprogram/journal/past-issues/issue-7/terhune/
  17. Jack and the Beanstalk …………………….. Steven Kellogg 1991
  18. The Giving Tree ………………………………….. Shel Silverstein 1964 https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/books/review/the-giving-tree-tender-story-of-unconditional-love-or-disturbing-tale-of-selfishness.html
  19. The Story of Babar………………………………. Jean De Brunhoff 1931 https://observer.com/2010/06/babar-the-imperialist/
  20. Green Eggs and Ham …………………….. Dr. Seuss 1960   https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2018/10/a-new-meaning-for-the-popular-green-eggs-and-ham-book.html
  21. Hop on Pop …………………………………… Dr. Seuss 1963 https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2019/02/26/695966537/classic-books-are-full-of-problems-why-cant-we-put-them-down
  22. Don’t Touch My Hair! …………………… Sharee Miller 2018
  23. We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States ….. David Catrow 2001

1 African American authored book
0 Asian American
0 Latinx
0 Native American
0 Pacific Islander

median publication date: 1937

4 books published in the 21st century

3rd – 5th Grade

  1. Black Beauty ……………………………………………….. Anna Sewell 1877
  2. Heidi ……………………………………………………………… Johanna Spyri 1880
  3. The Secret Garden ……………………………………. Frances Hodgson Burnett 1911
  4. The Velveteen Rabbit ……………………………….. Margery Williams Bianco 1922
  5. The Black Stallion ……………………………………… Walter Farley 1941
  6. The Wind in the Willows ………………………. Kenneth Grahame 1908 https://lithub.com/the-wind-in-the-willows-isnt-really-a-childrens-book/
  7. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ………………… Washington Irving 1820 https://mentalfloss.com/article/74112/8-lovely-facts-about-secret-garden
  8. Anne of Green Gables …………………………….. Lucy Maud Montgomery 1908                                                https://bookriot.com/2018/03/21/rereading-anne-of-green-gables-with-a-critical-eye/
  9. Treasure Island ………………………………………….. Robert Louis Stevenson 1882
  10. Pippi Longstocking ……………………………………. Astrid Lindgren 1944
  11. Ralph S. Mouse …………………………………………. Beverly Cleary 1982
  12. Mary Poppins …………………………………………….. P.L. Travers 1934
  13. The Little Prince ………………………………………… Antoine de Saint-Exupery 1943
  14. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory …….. Roald Dahl 1964
  15. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ……………… L. Frank Baum 1900
  16. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ……… Lewis Carroll 1865
  17. The Phantom Tollbooth ………………………….. Norton Juster 1961
  18. The Hobbit ………………………………………………….. JR.R. Tolkien 1937
  19. The Yearling ……………………………………………….. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings 1938
  20. The High King ……………………………………………. Lloyd Alexander 1969
  21. Frisby and the Rats ofNIMH ……. Robert C. O”Brien 1971
  22. Winnie-the-Pooh ……………………………………….. A. A. Milne 1921
  23. Shh! We”re Writing the Constitution …… Jean Fritz 1976
  24. The Last Egret …………………………………………….. Harvey E. Oyer III 2010
  25. The Haunted Mask ……………………………… R.L. Stine 1993

0 African American authored book
0 Asian American
0 Latinx
0 Native American
0 Pacific Islander
1 book published in the 21st Century
median publication date: 1930

6th -8th Grade

  1. Little Women …………………………………………………….. Louisa May Alcott 1868
  2. The Story of Doctor Dolittle ………………………… Hugh Lofting 1920 https://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/28/books/childrens-books-doctor-dolittle-innocent-again.html
  3. The Neverending Story …………………………………. Michael Ende 1979
  4. The Hound of the Baskervilles …………………… Arthur Conan Doyle 1902
  5. The Call of the Wild ……………………………………… Jack London 1903
  6. A Wrinkle in Time …………………………………………. Madeleine Engle 1962
  7. I Am Malala ……………………………………………………… Mala/a Yousafzai 2013
  8. Matilda ………………………………………………………………. Roald Dahl 1988
  9. The Age of Fable ……………………………………………… Thomas Bulfinch 1855
  10. The Hiding Place …………………………………………….. Corrie ten Boom 1971
  11. Island of the Blue Dolphins…………………………… Scott ODell 1960 https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-critical-look-at-odells-island-of.html
  12. Where the Red Fern Grows ………………………… Wilson Rawls 1961
  13. The Count of Monte Cristo …………………………. Alexandre Dumas 1844
  14. The Lion. the Witch and the Wardrobe ….. C.S. Lewis 1950
  15. Through the Looking-Glass …………………………. Lewis Carroll 1871
  16. Sounder ……………………………………………………………… William H. Armstrong 1969                                                              https://books.google.com/books?id=wCLuCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA60&lpg=PA60&dq=problematic+sounder+armstrong&source=bl&ots=nSk3dd0pHU&sig=ACfU3U1N74VFu2rZL1tYC4g_YUD_BQKcfQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj03Jiq66HkAhUiiOAKHXxxCacQ6AEwFHoECBIQAQ#v=onepage&q=problematic%20sounder%20armstrong&f=false
  17. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer ……………………… John Grisham 2010
  18. Hoot …………………………………………………………………….. Carl Hiaasen 2002
  19. Julius Caesar …………………………………………………….. William Shakespeare 1599
  20. The Constitution of the United States ……… Karen Judson 2009
  21. The Diary of Anne Frank ……………………………. Anne Frank 1947
  22. Leaves of Grass ………………………………………………… Walt Whitman 1855 https://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_44.html
  23. Poems ………………………………………………………………….. William Blake 1827
  24. The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe … Edgar Allan Poe 1876
  25. The Murders in the Rue Morgue ……………….. Edgar Allan Poe 1841
  26. Finding Langston …………………………………….. Lesa Cline-Ransome 2018

0 African American authored book
1 Asian American
0 Latinx
0 Native American
0 Pacific Islander
1 book about African Americans
2 books about the Holocaust
5 books published in the 21st century
median publication date 1919

9th – 12th Grade

  1. Jane Eyre ……………………………………………………………….. Charlotte Bronte 1847
  2. The War of the Worlds ……………………………………. H. G. Wells 1898
  3. Watership Down …………………………………………………. Richard Adams 1972
  4. Frankenstein ………………………………………………………… Mary Shelley 1818
  5. The Vicar of Wakefield ……………………………………. Oliver Goldsmith 1766
  6. Howards End ………………………………………………………. E. M. Forster 1910
  7. The Last of the Mohicans ………………… James Fennimore Cooper 1826                  https://www.jstor.org/stable/20107258?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  8. Pride and Prejudice …………………………………………… Jane Austen 1813
  9. Much Ado About Nothing ………………………………. William Shakespeare 1599
  10. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin … Benjamin Franklin 1793
  11. Lord of the Flies ………………………………………………….. William Golding 1954 https://www.jstor.org/stable/41555906?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  12. Animal Farm ……………………………………………………….. George Orwell 1945
  13. A Land Remembered ……………………………………….. Patrick D. Smith 1984
  14. Murder on the Orient Express ………………………. Agatha Christie 1934
  15. The Old Man and the Sea ………………………………. Ernest Hemingway 1952
  16. Finding Manana ………………………………………………… Mirta Ojito 2005
  17. Up From Slavery …………………………………………………. Booker T. Washington 1901
  18. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation ………… Joseph f Ellis 2000
  19. The Crucible ………………………………………………………… Arthur Miller 1953
  20. A Tale of Two Cities …………………………………….. Charles Dickens 1859
  21. A Raisin in the Sun ……………………………………… Lorraine Hansberry 1959
  22. The Road Not Taken and Other Poems …….. Robert Frost 1993
  23. Hope is the Thing with Feathers …………………… Emily Dickinson 2012
  24. The Nickel Boys ………………………………………….. Colson Whitehead 2019
  25. Into the Wild ……………………………………………….. Jon Krakauer 1996
  26. Manchild in the Promised Land ……………………. Claude Brown 1965
  27. Devil in the Grove : Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America …………………………………. Gilbert King 2012
  28. The Weary Blues ………………………………………………….. Langston Hughes 1925
  29. Woodlawn: One Hope. One Dream. One Way. ………………… Todd Gerelds 2015
  30. Florida Made: The 25 Most Important Figures Who Shaped the State ……………………….. Senator George LeMieux and Laura Mize 2018

5 African American authored books
1 Asian American
1 Latinx
0 Native American
0 Pacific Islander
0 Young Adult books
2 books about African Americans
7 books published in the 21st century
median publication date: 1921

The original list can be found here

For a robust discussion of these books, read Dr. Reese’s commentary on Twitter

https://twitter.com/debreese/status/1162684548540502016?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1162684548540502016&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublish.twitter.com%2F%3Fquery%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Ftwitter.com%252Fdebreese%252Fstatus%252F1162684548540502016%26widget%3DTweet

One thought on “Listed in Florida

  1. Wow, I read through those lists and went who in the world did they consult???? Certainly no one working with young readers at the moment. I’ve got a reader for a tween, and they certainly would balk at some of the books listed……and there is no way any of the teenagers I work with would read these books for pleasure……

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