The Fairfax School Board has turned down a request from parents that a novel about a teenage girl going through puberty be removed from school libraries. But board members agreed with the parents that the book should not have been assigned to a fifth-grader.
The book, "The Agony of Alice" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, drew a complaint from Kurt and Mary Maggio, whose daughter was assigned to read it last year as a fifth-grader at Franklin Sherman Elementary School. The Maggios said the book's handling of adolescent issues was too explicit and graphic for elementary students--especially those students, such as their daughter, whose parents have chosen not to enroll them in the school system's Family Life Education curriculum.
The book is recommended for children ages 8 to 12, according to the author's Web site. It is told from the perspective of a girl named Alice, who is going through puberty without a mother and is looking for a female role model to help her deal with the changes. She eventually comes to trust a sixth-grade teacher she didn't like at first, and she keeps a journal of her thoughts and feelings.
Mary Maggio said she and her husband also objected to the book's tone and "sarcastic humor."
"This was not the first book that I had some problems with, so I was even more surprised that the teacher would have even assigned the book to my daughter knowing how I felt about these issues," she said.
She said the teacher did allow her daughter to read an alternate book when Maggio complained. But Maggio and her husband still wanted the book removed from school libraries and the district's list of approved reading materials.
"We didn't like the book, and we don't think it belongs in school," she said.
A committee at the elementary school and a committee from the district's Area III office both recommended that the book remain in schools, and the Maggios appealed the decision to the School Board. The two committees also said that the book should not be assigned reading for students as young as fifth-graders but should be available to students when they choose a book for small group discussions.
The committees also said an anthology that contains three chapters from the book should continue to be available for classroom use.
The School Board agreed with those recommendations but said that small group discussions about the book should be limited to girls.