ROCKFORD, MI — Rockford Public Schools notified its elementary parents that a book that will be available at its upcoming Scholastic Book Fair includes a gay character, according to Superintendent Michael Shibler.
“Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot” is the 12th book in the popular children’s book series by author and illustrator Dav Pilkey.
“Our philosophy is to be as transparent as we possibly can when dealing with parents and their children,” said Shibler, about the Tuesday, Nov. 10 letter, regarding next week’s book fairs at the elementary schools.
“It was brought to my attention yesterday by an administrator coordinating the book fair. I try to be consistent and wanted parents to know.”
Shibler told parents that every year during parent-teacher conferences, each elementary school hosts a book fair through Scholastic. He said this fall a representative from Scholastic met with library personnel from various schools notifying them that the “Captain Underpants” book could be viewed as controversial by some readers.
“Within the plot of this story, there is a very brief reference to one of the featured characters traveling 20 years into the future to find he is married to another man,” according to the letter.
Shibler included the statement from the scholastic representative in his letter:
“Our goal is to encourage all children to learn to love to read in part by making available a wide array of titles for children to choose from.
Children all across the country live in families with varied family structures and our authors are moved to portray these families in their books. While the author gives us a glimpse of Harold’s future and his partner, this is not the focus of the story. Rather it is about Harold as he is in school at the present.
Of course, at Scholastic we recognize that not every book is for every young person. Therefore, we encourage families and teachers to take an active interest in their children’s reading choices so that a child will not select a book that is contrary to her or his family or community values.”
Scholastic could not be reached for comment.
In October, Arborwood Elementary School in Monroe had the book banned from its book fair. Monroe Schools Superintendent Barry Martin said they were also informed by Scholastic Corporation, a publishing company, about the potential controversy.
Rockford has 8,000 students and 3,600 and in kindergarten through fifth-grade. The book in question is not on the shelves in any of the Rockford elementary libraries, only on a Scholastic book cart for sale for parents or students.
“At Rockford Public Schools we value every person that steps foot into our buildings,” Shibler told parents. “At the same time we believe that our parents deserve to have the background information related to material that may not align with the values of many families.”
Pilkey’s website includes the following snippet about the book:
George, Harold, and their doubles, Yesterday George and Yesterday Harold, have a good thing going. Two of them go to school, while the other two hide in the tree house and play video games all day then they switch! But when their malicious gym teacher, Mr. Meaner, creates a method of mind control that turns their fellow students into attentive, obedient, perfect children, the future of all humanity will be in their hands!
Shibler said the book fairs are on Nov. 17 and 19. He has directed parents to call Ryan Kelley, assistant superintendent for instruction, with any questions or concerns. He can be reached at 616-863-6556.