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In the small Virginia town where Bible-study classes were recently found unconstitutional, another historic book is under examination.

Teachers in the Bristol, Va., school system are protesting the use of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers on the grounds that they are "racist, sexist, and archaic." Along with 13 other educational concerns, members of the Bristol Virginia Education Association last month presented the school board with the results of a survey of 165 bvea members showing that many teachers disapprove of the books. (See Education Week, Feb. 2, 1983.)

Rachel Combs, a teacher at Virginia High School and president of the bvea, said that "there was enough concern about some of the points in the McGuffey Readers that we felt we had reason to go to the board."

"We're not saying the board made the wrong decision in adopting McGuffey Readers," Ms. Combs said.

"We felt the use of the readers should be voluntary" rather than mandated by the board, she explained.

The books, which have been a part of Bristol's curriculum for a year and a half, are used as supplementary readers in grades 1 through 6, according to Evelyn Murray, director of Bristol's McGuffey program.

Ms. Murray defended the school's use of the books. "I think of it being more a literary book," she said. "It has twice as much vocabulary in it as [the other] basal readers. Are you going to call Poe, Keats, and Shakespeare sexist?"

The next board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17, but Ms. Combs said she was not sure whether the fate of the McGuffey Readers would be decided at that meeting.

The Council of School Attorneys, a branch of the National School Boards Association, has published an educator's guide to the First Amendment. Written by four lawyers, the 111-page book offers school officials an analysis of common legal issues, including censorship, religious freedom, and freedom of speech.

The four articles in First Amendment and the Schools, published last month, focus on school boards' selection and removal of curricular materials and library books; current court decisions on school prayer, creationism, and other religious issues; censorship of student speech and publications; and the First Amendment rights of school employees.

The articles were adapted from papers presented at the 1983 School Law Seminar held in San Francisco. Copies of the book are $15 each, and may be obtained by writing to Kathleen Thomas, director, Administrative Department, nsba Office of Federal Regulations, 1055 Thomas Jefferson St., N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20007, or by calling (202) 337-7666.

A high-school textbook on the Middle East that was commissioned by a pro-Israel organization has been discontinued by its publisher amid claims by a pro-Arab group that it is racist. But the book's publisher says the text was taken off the market simply because it wasn't selling well.

The book, The United States and the Middle East, was written by Philip L. Groisser, who was commissioned by the American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East, a pro-Israel organization in New York City. Following its first printing in 1982, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, D.C., criticized the book as portraying Israelis favorably and Arabs and Arab countries unfavorably.

The pro-Arab group is taking credit for the publisher's decision to discontinue publication. But the publisher, The State University of New York Press, says the decision to discontinue the book was made because sales have been disappointing. "What we were doing here was experimenting to see if we could effectively market a high-school textbook," said Herbert McArthur, suny's assistant vice chancellor for research and supervisor of the press.

Mr. McArthur explained that the university press usually does not produce high-school textbooks because "we simply can't tap that market.''

The Middle East book was the press's first high-school textbook.

"The charge of bias was not a factor in our decision," he said.

The group that initially backed the book has offered to subsidize suny Press in continuing to print copies. "That misses the point," Mr. McArthur said, "which is that we cannot effectively market that book." But he explained that the pro-Israel group might ask Mr. Groisser, the author, to rewrite the textbook for the college level. If that happens, Mr. McArthur said, the press would be willing to reconsider the book as a new manuscript.

Bookstores around the country reported selling record numbers of children's books this summer, according to a report in the Sept. 2, issue of Publishers Weekly. Summer is not usually a good time for sales of children's books, since they have to compete with summer activities. But this summer, business was brisk.

The report attributes the rise in sales to several factors, among them: an increase in the number of children's paperbacks,which are less costly than hardcover books; a variety of vacation reading lists; and ''Reading Rainbow," a PBS program that recommended specific books for summer reading.

The most popular books sold this summer, according to the survey of 40 booksellers, were: the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series, books related to The Return of the Jedi and other Star Wars movies, teen-age romances, Chris Van Allsburg's The Wreck of the Zephyr, Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius, and Roy Gerrard's The Favershams. Old favorites that sold well over the summer were: Dr. Seuss and books by Shel Silverstein, Beverly Cleary, and S.E. Hinton.--ab

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