BANGOR, Maine --A book of rhymes handed out to kindergarten classes across Maine is being criticized by some parents as inappropriate. "Schoolyard Rhymes" is a compilation of 50 verses included in bags given to 18,000 pupils through the Read With ME literacy project supported by Gov. John Baldacci and his wife Karen.
Karen Baldacci, who is a former kindergarten teacher, spearheads Maine Reads, the nonprofit umbrella organization for Read With ME that is funded by Verizon, the Bangor Daily News reported. The group receives no state money.
A few of the rhymes have raised some eyebrows. For example, one says, "Ladies and gentlemen, Take my advice, Pull down your pants And slide on the ice." Another one says, "Girls go to Mars to get candy bars. Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider."
Erica Smith of Hampden, mother of a 5-year-old son who goes to the McGraw School, said the book is "completely inappropriate." "It's rude. There are words in there that I don't allow in my house," said Smith, who complained to her son's teacher as well as the school principal. She also called the governor's office to voice her displeasure.
The book, edited by award-winning author Judy Sierra of Castro Valley, Ca., and illustrated by Melissa Sweet of Rockport, was chosen by a five-member committee of literacy specialists, librarians and educators including Karen Baldacci.
Since the book was distributed, the governor's office has received about a dozen e-mails and phone calls from people who said they were "uncomfortable" with the book, said Crystal Canney, spokeswoman for the governor.
"The committee obviously feels that parents should use their own judgment on what they feel is appropriate for their children," she said.
Officials noted that the rhymes, which have been around for generations, are meant to be taken lightly and that the intent was never to offend. Sarah Cecil, coordinator of the Portland-based Maine Reads, said this year marks the first time anyone has complained about the program.
Most of the evaluation forms that accompanied the book were positive, she said. "At the same time, we're sorry if we offended people and we can respect each parent's or educator's decisions about whether to read the book or not," she said.
Thumbing through the book at her desk at the Bangor Public Library, Anne Mundy, director of the children's department, said she could see both sides of the controversy.
"Everyone's sensibilities are a little different, so it's hard to find something that's going to be welcomed by all families of kindergartners," she said.