A school district in Wisconsin is reviewing a Muppets children’s book to determine if it’s appropriate for kindergartners.
The book “For Every Child a Better World” by Jim Henson was published in 1993 with the cooperation of the United Nations. It includes illustrations of children living in poverty and violence with the intent of showing the inequality among children around the world.
“Its message – that there are some children around the world who do not have all the basic necessities of life – is both serious and challenging,” reads a note to parents inside the book.
A member of the Marshfield School Board, Mary Carney, argued that the illustrations are too graphic for young children and should not be part of the curriculum.
Each year the school board must review and approve the curriculum, according to Amber Leifheit, vice president of the school board and chair of Curriculum and Instruction Committee. Because of Carney’s concerns, an independent panel was set up to review the book and make a recommendation to the school board about whether to keep it on the curriculum or not. The reviewers are meeting on Wednesday and are expected to make a recommendation to the Curriculum and Instruction Committee later this month.
Leifheit said the book was added as an optional reading to include in the week dedicated to learning how to be a good citizen.
“No one from the community or other board members, other than Mary, have brought any concerns forward of the book,” Leifheit told MSNBC.
Carney, who has a 4-year-old, said when looked at a pdf version of the book online, she read some concerning reviews. One, she said, was from a man who said the book traumatized him as a child, and another said it was inappropriate for children ages three to five.
There are currently 13 positive reviews on Amazon.com that say the book is a good way to introduce difficult topics to children.
“This book is great to teach children to be grateful for what they have because there are other children in the world who may not have some things that we might take for granted,” one reviewer wrote. “I think this is a must have book for all children.”
Despite news headlines that say Carney wants the book banned, she said she has not asked for a ban of the book, but she thinks the concepts of war, poverty and strife may be too advanced for 5-year-olds.
“I think these concepts should be taught maybe at home or at an older age,” Carney told MSNBC, adding that having a parent present when a child is introduced to these issues may be a better setting than a classroom.
Carney was critical of the change in the school’s social studies curriculum this past summer because she thought it downplayed “American exceptionalism” and focused too much on international issues. That criticism is carried over to her concerns about “For Every Child a Better World.”
“Those types of issues should be taught on a local level,” she said, expressing her view that the curriculum should be focused on smaller community issues like local poverty rather than global poverty.
The Jim Henson Company did not return a request for comment.