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>Chicago postscript

>Patricia Polacco has re-uploaded her statement about her IRA non-appearance on her website, but now prefaces it with a note urging her supporters to take aim at No Child Left Behind, not SRA/McGraw-Hill. Which kind of makes her statement a non-issue, but if it makes more people understand what NCLB does and does not do, then I’m all for it.

But despite the discussions I’ve seen on listservs and the net, I can’t agree that this is a case of censorship. Speech you get paid for rarely is.

In other Chicago news, a fine time was had by all at the 24th annual Zena Sutherland lecture, delivered by Jacqueline Woodson. Jackie is a marvelous speaker and storyteller, and her theme of being a Writer and being a writer contained much insight about the value of creative expression and its political effects. I will let you know when it’s scheduled for publication in the Horn Book. Next year’s lecture, on May 4, 2007, will be given by Richard Peck.

We learned something interesting in the questions-and-answers that followed Woodson’s lecture; Jackie revealed that she had always envisioned her picture book The Other Side, about a white girl and a black girl becoming friends, as a contemporary story, but the editor and illustrator chose to set it in the pre-Civil Rights past. Because it was safer?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Anonymous says:

    >maybe because “historical” settings won’t date as quickly?

  2. >Because it was LESS safe is my bet.


  3. SRA/McGraw-Hill says:

    >SRA/McGraw-Hill welcomes the opportunity to present the facts about Patricia Polacco’s scheduled appearances in SRA’s exhibit booth at IRA on May 2 and 3, 2006.

    SRA/McGraw-Hill and Ms. Polacco signed a very clear contract, which can be viewed at

    In the contract, signed by SRA on Jan. 10, 2006, and by Ms. Polacco on Feb. 8, 2006, Ms. Polacco agreed to be an SRA/McGraw-Hill exhibit booth speaker at four 30-minute presentations on two very specific topics: heroes who made a difference in her life and the real stories that inspired several of her books. In the two-page contract, SRA/McGraw-Hill was identified by name 14 times. She further agreed that her appearances at the SRA exhibit booth would be limited solely to these four presentations.

    Ms. Polacco chose not to honor her commitment to SRA/McGraw-Hill. Shortly before the event, she began insisting that she wanted to use her appearances as a platform for expressing her personal views on public education policy. We respect her right to express her ideas; however, since the SRA educational presentations were focused on writing and children’s books, SRA did not believe that its exhibit booth was an appropriate forum for a public policy speech. Ms. Polacco’s statements about this event are inaccurate and unreasonable.

    SRA’s intention was to have Ms. Polacco deliver four presentations that would inspire the people who have the greatest impact on educating our children – classroom teachers.

  4. rindawriter says:

    >All this made me wonder is any speech ever really free? Even if I’m permitted to say as I please in a certain place, how “free” am I inside from my own limitations? It is interesting to think that the more paid I might be for a speech the less truly free it might be. Sigh, yes, I hvae been paid for speaking…now, since Roger has raised the issue, I have to think about how free I was in that speaking… INTERESTING!

  5. KT Horning says:

    >Dear SRA/McGraw-Hill:

    Having heard Polocco give her speech that’s critical of NCLB on another occasion, I can assure you that it would have been completely in keeping with your request for her to speak about “The Heroes in My Life.” In it, she talks about her own struggles with dyslexia as a child and the teacher who turned things around for her. (Basically, it’s the story behind her autobigraphical picture book “Thank You, Mr Falker.”)

    In this context, she makes the point that if Mr Falker had been having to focus on “teaching to the tests,” as would have been the case in the age of NCLB, and if she had not had the arts as part of her routine education to keep her engaged in those early years, she would definitely have been left behind and never would have gotten to where she is today.

    Polocco exposes NCLB for the failure it is. As such, her speech would have been a huge inspiration to your projected audience, as I don’t know a single classroom teacher who honestly thinks NCLB is a good thing.

  6. Roger Sutton says:

    >Think they’re reading, K.T.? I hope so!

    I must say that there is a certain kind of kid (i.e., me) who got a real charge out of those old SRA boxes, where the colors got prettier and the text got tinier the “better” at reading you became. And we got to choose the card we wanted to read, too. Does anyone else remember this system?

  7. KT Horning says:

    >Yep, but no matter how far you progressed, the stories never got any more interesting. We all strived to be part of the coveted “Silver Group” back in fifth grade.

    My mother, a teacher who detested lifeless methods like SRA, told me to always read the questions first, so I’d know what meaning I was supposed to be deriving from the text. At the very least, I was able to practice taking multiple choice tests, a skill that served me well later on. But I’m sure that my fifth grade teacher reading aloud “Call It Courage,” “North to Freedom,” and “Johnny Tremain” had much more to do with my success as a reader than SRA ever did.

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