Battle of the Books… Now a Moral Battle in Oregon

Battle of the Books… Now a Moral Battle in Oregon

Next year during Oregon’s Battle of the Books, 3rd-5th graders will be encouraged to live, breath and study a book with references to “p0rn,” “going all the way,” and sex-change operations (see references below).

At the heart of the battle is this issue: many educational entities at the state and federal level are pushing a liberal moral agenda concerning when and how sexual topics are introduced to students, with waning regard for what is age appropriate. There is still a small window of time to make your voice heard at the local level about this issue (see below).

Oregon Battle of the Books is a voluntary state library-sponsored reading program and a beloved tradition for many students across Oregon and the nation. Students form teams, hoping to make it to regional, state, and national competitions. They not only read, but study in depth, all the books on the assigned Battle of the Books list for the year and compete against other teams. When our kids were assigned a Battle of the Books list two years ago, they were so excited, they read the books within a couple of months and practically memorized them. One parent described winning teams as a “point of pride” for schools.

The book list for next year’s Battle of the Books (2018-2019) in Oregon has brought a great deal of controversy due to one book on the list for 3rd-5th graders, George, by Alex Gino. The main character in George is a child who lives in a boy’s body, but feels he is a girl.  Many parents have passionately expressed concern to us because the book has many references to various sexual topics that are in no way age appropriate to introduce to a 3rd grader in a school setting.

Regarding p0rnography, the book mentions the word “p0rn” and goes so far as to describe how to hide internet searches. We know from our experience as parents, if our kids see a word they do not understand but are curious about, they simply do a “Google” search. How will that internet search go for all the young students reading this book and googling “p0rn”? Although we have internet protections in place, many households do not, and protections do not always work as planned. Concerned parents have expressed that if parents would like to introduce those topics to their young students, they have the right to do so at home. However, that decision should not be forced upon all students and parents in Oregon public schools.

The difficult aspect of this controversy is that Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) will not budge on this book being included next year. Although it says on the “Book Nomination Criteria” tab of the OBOB page, that they consider “age-appropriate titles,” they adamantly argue that this book is age appropriate. The OBOB website also claims that it will not take a book off the list “because of actual or suspected parental objections” or “in an effort to avoid controversy with parents.”

Consequently, individual school districts in Oregon must choose how they will handle this situation. We applaud the Bend La Pine School Board for taking this issue seriously and listening to the concerns of parents. It is our understanding that they have had one meeting already that discussed this issue and will have one more closed meeting on April 19th. They will make a decision by April 20th.

However, the district is leaning towards keeping the book on the required reading list and having students get permission from their parent to read it, but many parents do not feel this goes far enough. They know that the inclusion of the book will still greatly affect their students. First, all parents know that if you tell your child they can’t do something, it will make them more curious about that activity. Second, those kids whose parents will not let them read the book will clearly be singled out and potentially ostracized for “bringing down their teams.”  Third, playground conversation will no doubt increasingly deal with many of these topics, and likely the conversations will be without the supervising care and wisdom of a teacher or adult.

Ultimately, most parents we have encountered would like the Bend La Pine School Board to take a stand against the Battle of the Books committee in Portland and exclude this book from the Bend La Pine Battle of the Books list next year.  It is not too late to make your voice heard. We always encourage people to communicate in a respectful way. We cover this type of issue and how to deal with it in our book, Navigating Public Schools.

Contact a Bend La Pine School Board member and call, email or write.

Although the Oregon Battle of the Books committee members have claimed they will not change their minds, it would be beneficial for them to hear how you feel about this issue. Contact the OBOB by clicking here.


Here’s just a sampling of some of the inappropriate content:

Alex Gina, George, Scholastic Inc., 2017

Pg. 8.  “That’s it.”  Scott grinned, oblivious to George’s panic.  “That’s my little bro! Growing up and looking at dirty magazines.”

Pg. 47. So George knew it could be done.  A boy could become a girl.  She had since read on the Internet that you could take girl hormones that would change your body, and you could get a bunch of different surgeries if you wanted them and had the money.  This was called transitioning.  You could even start before you were eighteen with pills called androgen blockers that stopped the boy hormones already inside you from turning your body into a man’s.

Pg. 105. George had been reading websites about transitioning since Scott had taught her how to clear the web browser on Mom’s computer.

Pg. 141.  Dude, I thought you had p0rn or something in there, so I took a peek.  You know, just to find out what kind of stuff my little bro was into.

Pg. 141. “So, like, do you want to”- he made a gesture with two fingers like a pair of scissors- “go all the way.”


  1. Darlene Anderson

    I strongly urge that the book “George” be taken off the Battle of the Books list. This is not age appropriate for our children and it is not the public school’s place to be teaching about these kinds of issues. This should be left for parents to deal with and decide about at home. There are plenty of wonderful books to have offered in this type of arena without having to be so controversial. Thank you for listening to my concern.

    Reply April 11, 2018
  2. Erica

    I completely understand acceptance of those not feeling like they are in the right body but reading and learning about porn is absolutely inappopriate for this age and my child will not be reading this book.

    Reply April 12, 2018
  3. Gloria

    As a recently retired teacher, I know how popular Battle of the Books is in many schools. At my former school, most of the student body would become familiar with the books because even students not involved in the “Battle” were spectators at the competition. I urge Bend-LaPine Schools to not include the controversial book, George, in their program. This is about a subject that many parents would like save for discussion until their children are older. Thank you for your consideration.

    Reply April 13, 2018
  4. Megan

    Please do not include this book!!!! I would hate to see a group at any age level loose because of this book. As a parent my daughter will not be reading this book and I strongly urge everyone to choose not to allow it.

    Reply April 13, 2018
  5. Leeza Pelke

    Please pull George off of the list. My child is finally old enough to participate next year. Pornography is not a subject matter she needs any expanded exploration of as an 8 year old. Middle schoolers may be dealing hormonal questions but 8 year olds are not and sexual exploration is entirely inappropriate curriculum for this age level. Pull this book off of the list and let 3rd graders read something age and developmentally appropriate in it’s place please.

    Reply April 13, 2018
  6. Pamela Elgin

    This book is not appropriate for any child to read and it is not the school systems choice to present such content to our children! It to a parents own discretion when or if they want to discuss these issues with their child and what age this is appropriate. The school systems over step boundaries constantly and we need to do something about it! These issues are of none of their concern when it comes to our kids. Stick with math and English.

    Reply April 13, 2018
  7. Darcy

    Please DO NOT include this book “George”. It is not age appropriate whatsoever.

    Reply April 13, 2018
  8. Margaret Quist

    My grandchildren have participated in the statewide Battle of the Books for several years. I attended the State finals in Salem this year to support my grand daughter’s middle school team. It was a wonderful event highlighting the intelligence and love of reading that every student had. I currently serve on the school board of a public charter school in southern Oregon. I will certainly support the effort to have the book “George” eliminated from the required reading list. It is not appropriate for 3rd thru 5th graders. It only emphasizes the liberal agenda being pushed upon all of us from Portland. Come on teachers and parents, speak up about this decision. If over 50% of schools and or school boards decline to make this a mandatory read I would think OBOB would have to eliminate questions about it during the battles. I am drawing my line in the sand and saying NO ro this overstepping of Parental concerns.

    Reply April 14, 2018
  9. Daniele Miller

    My child will definitely NOT be reading this book. Please remove the book, George, from the reading list so that he can participate in the challenge. This subject matter is not appropriate on any level for my 8 year old. Please listen to the voices of caution.

    Reply April 14, 2018
  10. Sheri King

    I don’t live in the Bend area but was glad to find this webpage after learning about this book. All three of my sons have been in BOB. It makes me sick to my stomach that those at the top would be so deceitful about inserting their agenda right into the very heartbeat of our schools through a program so many people love. They know how divisive this issue is and that it is extremely controversial. That alone is enough reason to leave it out. Second, to place the burden on children of dealing with such heavy topics like this breaks my heart. Third, to put sexual struggles and doubts into children’ minds about their gender at a vulnerable age when they are trying to figure out their identity is to me a blatant exploitation of children. We will not only not be reading the book but sadly, I’m not sure we can participate in the program in good conscience, knowing the committee would approve such an obviously inappropriate book for children.

    Reply April 16, 2018
  11. Chelsea Stallard

    I strongly urge Bend-Lapine schools and all Oregon school districts to remove this book from the list. My child will not be allowed to read it.

    Reply April 26, 2018
  12. Jc

    Please, as a parent and a teacher, even merely based on just the excerpts above, please, Bend-LaPine, take a stand. Let kids be kids. The don’t need to be asking what porn is at 8,9,10 years old. My son is already very interested in this book, because of the controversy that was brought to his attention at school. If we allow this book it means that we believe kids should learn about dirty magazines, porn, etc. at 8 years old. We can address differences in our own houses how we choose. That is our right as parents. Again, let kids be kids.

    Reply April 27, 2018
  13. Jc

    Another person said it perfectly. “Overstepping parental boundaries.”

    Reply April 27, 2018
  14. Dee

    This is not acceptable. This needs to be pulled immediately. If parents want to teach their child those things it can be done at home. This is disgusting for a child to read.

    Reply April 27, 2018
  15. Tiffany Roseboro

    Please remove George from the list. Impulsivity is important, and can be done in an age appropriate way that will cause less confusion. The Battle of the Books event is not the forum to introduce this topic to this age group.

    Reply April 28, 2018
  16. Linda Tasker

    Battle of the Books is very big in Canby. I am wondering if our school parents are aware, Tiffany Tasker.

    Reply April 30, 2018
  17. Maria Fuhrmann

    It is one thing for consenting adults to consider their own personal sexual preferences, but children as young as 8 do not need to be thinking about the “possibilities” that are out there – especially in terms of getting full-blown sex changes. Really, with all of the EXCELLENT choices in books out there, you need not include a book that is so inappropriate. I am an open-minded person, and if the book dealt say with a child’s PARENT who was considering a sex-change, that would be different. Children need not be given such “adult” themes to consider – it is confusing and simply NOT age-appropriate.

    I ask that you remove George from the OBOB list, and if you do not, I will be pulling my daughter from the competition, or at the very least, refusing that she read that particular book. You may argue that “others in the group may choose to read that book,” but what if no one feels comfortable with it? How is it fair then, to choose one kid to “have to” read such a selection? Or, what if no one on the team reads it, and the team does not fare as well as they should have – all because their parents deemed your book choice inappropriate? Would you find that fair?

    Reply May 2, 2018
  18. Olsen

    Just read this book. I’m a teacher. Our school is hosting regionals. I’m opposed to this title for a variety of reasons stated above. Even I felt “dirty” reading it…and I’m “old”

    Reply July 11, 2018

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