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Letter: Book Should Not Be on Eighth-Grade Reading List

May 16, 2014 06:46PM ● By Steven Jack
I would like to share a concern I have regarding a novel being used in 8th grade Language Arts classrooms in the Oswego School District. The book is Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn. It is a young adult fiction novel and is on the district approved curriculum list for literature circles. This means it is allowed to be read and discussed by groups of children in 8th grade.

Two quotes for the book read:
"I walked to the bus stop, trying not to think of Kristie. I'd told her I'd be back that night, but I wouldn't. It had been okay last night. No one had gotten hurt. But I couldn't chance it again, couldn't let my dick-or even destiny-make my decisions for me. I couldn't go." (p109)

"The wheel was running regular, and Cricket pointed up at the highest car. 'Look.' At first I didn't see what he was talking about. Then I did. A couple at the top of the wheel. The girl was riding, black tank top shoved up, her head in her boyfriend's lap. 'People think they're invisible up there. Or maybe they just don't care what we see.' The car came closer until I could see exactly what they were doing. The girl was really young, maybe twelve or thirteen tops." (p130)

I am aware that some literature is used because of it's literary excellence even if it contains profanity or questionable subject matter but I don't believe that is the case with this novel. The content is grossly inappropriate for junior high readers and it has no place in the curriculum. I've spoke to various administrators in the district to voice my concern.

They, of course, were not employed in the district when this book was added. They do not know why it is on the approved list, nor do they know when it was added. I've requested that it be removed from the list and have been told it's a process that is ongoing with the evaluation of all k-12 English Language Arts curriculum and I, as one parent, cannot get it removed.

I'm turning to social media to share my concern. No one that I've spoken to at the district has provided me with a valid reason this book should be on the district approved curriculum list. I would be willing to hear someones argument for its inclusion and I would also like to ask anyone who agrees with me strongly enough to contact the administration. 

If you feel strongly that novels with this type of content should not be used for instructional purpose (district approved for lit circles), please voice your concerns to Dr. Judith Minor, the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning. Her email address is

If you feel strongly that this book, Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn, belongs on the district approved list for LA curriculum, I'd love to hear your opinion, as well. 

I have NO interest in banning this book from libraries. I just do NOT think it should be used for instructional purposes in the classroom.

Judy Meier