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Duval Parents Worried Assigned Reading Encouraging Students To Read Koran, 'Praying To Muhammad'

Jeanette Winter

Some Duval County parents are concerned about books elementary-school children will be assigned to read next school year.

The readings are part of the new curriculum called Engage New York and parents have complained to school board members about lessons on religion, which are set to start in first grade. 


At least one parent is questioning two books assigned to third graders and has expressed concern that the books encourage children to read the Koran and 'praying to Muhammad.'

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the topics are part of new standards aimed at getting children college-ready and in line with national standards.

“Some of the lessons do speak to world religions, Islam being one of them,” Vitti said. “But no, there are no lessons that specifically teach the Koran or in any way are trying to convert children to Islam.”

Vitti says a diverse curriculum can  prepare children with background information so they are able to read more advanced material.

The stories are set in the Middle East. One is called “The Librarian of Basra.” It’s about a woman in Iraq determined to protect a library of books during war. The other book is “Nasreen’sSecret School,” a story about a young girl living in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule whose grandmother enrolls her in a secret school even though girls are not allowed to be educated.

Vitti said, “The book being set in war time leads children to think about freedom that should not be suppressed during war time: freedom of speech, access to information.”

Vitti says release forms will be sent home for any material that is considered sensitive, and parents can opt children out for an alternate assignment.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.