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Globe Editorial

Cape Ann: It’s a book (with a mildly offensive word)

December 15, 2010

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Pat Earle, who runs a Cape Ann literacy program, certainly doesn’t seem like someone to poison childrens’ minds. And yet that’s exactly what she was accused of after her organization attempted to donate 340 copies of Lane Smith’s children’s book, “It’s a Book,’’ to first-graders in Rockport and Gloucester.

Smith’s well-reviewed story bears a very uncontroversial message: youngsters should be paying more attention to books and less to an ever-expanding array of electronic gadgets. But it aroused the ire of some local parents because of an ending in which a character says, “It’s a book, Jackass,’’ to a technology-loving donkey who just doesn’t get it.

The vociferous response shocked Earle — and certainly seems overblown. Given the current tenor of pop culture, including a hit pop song by Cee Lo Green with an expletive in the title, the term “jackass’’ feels quaintly innocuous.

Rather than reject the donation, schools should follow the lead of Rockport Elementary principal Shawn M. Maguire, who sent a letting alerting parents to the potentially offensive term. If some don’t want their children reading it, that’s fine.

But the objections of some shouldn’t prevent altogether the dissemination of the book — and its important message — especially in a season when there’s seemingly a Wii in every living room and a smartphone in every stocking.