Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami-Dade County, has restricted access to Amanda Gormans acclaimed poem The Hill We Climb, which she read at the inauguration of President Bidens, for children elementary school students after a parent filed a formal complaint against the on the grounds that the poem was not educational and contained indirect hateful messages.
A committee has reviewed The Hill We Climb on the basis of a single complaint, provided to The Times by the Florida Reading Freedom Projecta parent-led organization that champions student access to information and ideas.
Daily Salinas of Miami Lakes, Florida, Bob Graham’s mother-of-two, filed a lawsuit in March and demanded the poem be removed from the total environment rather than simply age-restricted, writing that the poem was not intended for schools as it would confuse and indoctrinate students.
When asked if she was aware of the professional reviews of the National Young Poet Laureate Poem, Salinas wrote, I don’t need it. And when asked to list the author, she wrote Oprah Winfrey. (Winfrey wrote the foreword to the book version of the poem published in March 2021.)
In January 2021, before reciting The Hill We Climb at the Bidens inauguration, Gorman told the Washington PostI hope my poem will represent a moment of unity for our country, that with my words I can speak of a new chapter and a new era for our nation.
The ABCs of Black History, Cuban Children, Countries in the News of Cuba and Love to Langston were also challenged by Salinas, according to recordings obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
The director of the Bob Graham Education Center and the superintendent of the Miami-Dade School District did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gorman released a statement about her instagram Tuesday saying she was disgusted by the decision to ban her poem.
So they ban my book for young readers, confuse me with Oprah, don’t specify what parts of my poetry they object to, refuse to read reviews, and offer no alternatives, she wrote. We must fight back.
Book bans are not new, she continued, but they have increased according to the [American Library Assn.], 40% more books were challenged in 2022 compared to 2021. In addition, it often only takes one objection to remove these books from our libraries and schools. And let’s be clear: most banned works are from authors who have struggled for generations to find their way into libraries. The majority of these censored works are in queer, non-white voices.
I wrote The Hill We Climb so that all young people could see themselves in a historic moment. Since then I have received countless letters and videos from children inspired by The Hill We Climb to write their own poems. Depriving children of the chance to find their voice in literature is a violation of their right to freedom of thought and expression.
What can we do? We need to speak out and make our voices heard. That’s why my publisher, Penguin Random House, has joined PEN America, authors, and community members in a lawsuit in Escambia County, Florida to challenge book restrictions like these.
Raegan Miller, director of development for the Florida Reading Freedom Projectexplained to The Times in an interview that the review board said it was restricting Gorman’s poem because although it had educational value, its vocabulary was deemed more appropriate for middle schoolers and therefore inappropriate for elementary school students .
Miller said the age-appropriateness of books issue is often used as a loophole to restrict books due to the vague nature of the classification. The same, she said, happens with books challenged because of their sexual content.
In a state with not-so-impressive literacy rates, I don’t know why you wouldn’t try to develop readers, stretch them, and help them grow and become better readers, Miller said. Especially if it’s something they’re interested in and that he chose himself.
Any parent can file a complaint and send a book through the chain of review boards, which Miller says include parents and media experts trained in checking library books in the wake of the Florida governor’s bill. , Ron DeSantis. HB 1467.
That was the big claim, that our libraries were filled with porn and indoctrination, Miller said. And so, when the time came, they had to create the committee and they had to have relatives on the committee. The Department of Education last August emailed all districts asking superintendents to nominate parents.
While parents have access to a list of book titles filling school library shelves, they don’t necessarily scour the aisles and reading materials themselves. Many echo objections from websites such as Book Looks, which offers a master key for parents to follow, and was founded by a member of the Brevard County, Fla., chapter of the group Moms for Liberty.
News of Gormans’ poem becoming inaccessible to elementary students at the Bob Graham Education Center comes just a week after publishing conglomerate Penguin Random House joined free speech advocacy group PEN America to sue the district. Escambia County school board in Florida for constitutional violations relating to book bans.
Book Club: Status of Banned Books
What: Actor, author and reader Rainbow Founder LeVar Burton joins LA Times Book Club to discuss status of banned books with Times publisher Steve Padille.
When: May 24 To 7 p.m. Pacific.
Or: ASU California Center, 1111 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. This book club event is available virtually. Get tickets.
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