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'I'm sitting in front of my classroom library on a Saturday': Tennessee teacher pushes back on state's book ban

In a three-minute-long video, Sydney Rawls calls the Age-Appropriate Materials Act useless, saying it's shifting the focus away from teaching kids how to read.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A new state law banning books is causing some controversy in the classroom and a teacher out of Murfreesboro is at the center of it. 

In Sydney Rawls' three-minute-long video, she calls the Age-Appropriate Materials Act useless, saying it's shifting the focus away from teaching kids how to read.

This new requirement is basically blackballing books and giving parents control over what their children can read. 

RELATED: Pulitzer-winning graphic novel about Holocaust banned by East Tennessee school district

While the law said it's supposed to add more transparency between schools and parents, it also means some kids are starting the year unable to read many of the books shelved in their school libraries.

"If a teacher wants a student to read any book at school or in the teacher's classroom, the teacher has to catalog every single book," Rawls said.

Rawls said most classroom libraries have hundreds of books. So, if teachers haven't taken inventory yet, that means some school children in Tennessee started the school year not allowed to read books in their own classroom. 

"The kids in here are asking me, 'Can I go get a book and read because they are so excited' and I have to say, 'No, you can't,'" Rawls explained in her Tik-Tok video.

When the law was initially passed, many teachers thought it only applied to the school's main library and not their classroom library. This new requirement is meant to allow parents to closely monitor books their kids can access. 

After the lengthy screening process is done by the district's school board, and in some instances the state's education department, teachers must post their approved book collection online for parents to review. 

Once the parents provide feedback, that's when students are finally allowed to start reading the books in school

ABC24 reached out to Memphis-Shelby County Schools to learn if their inventory is cataloged and available for parents but a spokesperson said they will let us know Monday. 

This debate surrounding books in classrooms came to the state capitol after a school board in east Tennessee banned a book about the Holocaust from an eighth-grade curriculum earlier this year.

That book was deemed inappropriate because of the pictures and graphic language used in the book.


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♬ original sound - sydney

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