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Common Core reading lists showcase some controversial picks

Children in a classroom.
Children in a classroom.
Steve Pope, Associated Press

Much of the hullaballoo over Common Core State Standards swirls around the reading lists in the appendix that accompanies the English standards. States adopted the standards, not their appendices, and are free to substitute other reading materials of similar rigor. Nevertheless, many fear the “exemplar” books will become a de facto national reading list that shapes the next generation of Americans — perhaps with a leftward lean.

To guard against that, a number of states, including Utah, pulled out of a multi-state consortium to design Common Core-aligned tests. Test questions drive curriculum choices, the reasoning goes.

Utah contracted with an outside company to design tests that satisfy Common Core standards and meet community standards. A parent review committee examined all 10,000 questions in the test bank last November. Three percent of the questions were flagged for review because of technical or content concerns, but general feedback was positive.

Controversial books from the optional reading list include:

"Dreaming in Cuban,” by Cristina Garcia. The book, suggested for high school students, includes an explicit description of a sex scene between a teenage boy and girl. Arizona’s Sierra Vista Unified School District pulled it from a district-approved list after parent concerns were aired.

"The Family Book,” by Todd Parr. This book, from the first grade list, depicts various family structures, including gay and lesbian parents.

"Kids Guide to Social Action,” by Barbara Lewis is for fourth-graders. Critics say it teaches children how to rebel against family values.

"The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, which describes rape, incest, sexual violence and pedophilia. It’s on the high school list.

That doesn’t mean that any of these texts will be taught in Utah schools.

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