Dr Seuss books slammed as racist by school librarian

EVERYTHING is racist now. Even the Cat in the Hat.

A school librarian in the US has rejected a gift of Dr Seuss books from Melania Trump intended to mark National Read a Book Day, describing the beloved series as "steeped in racist propaganda".


Dr. Seuss is now “racist”. Picture: Brendan Radke Source:News Corp Australia
Dr. Seuss is now “racist”. Picture: Brendan Radke Source:News Corp Australia Brendan Radke

Liz Phipps Soeiro, who teaches at the Cambridgeport Elementary School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and describes herself as "an advocate for inclusive libraries", instead penned an open letter to the First Lady criticising the Trump administration's education policies.

"Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a book my son and I have read over and over again, and one that we want to share with all of you," Ms Trump wrote in a letter to students.

"Remember, the key to achieving your dreams begins with learning to read. Find what you enjoy, anything that interests you, and read about it. Every page will take you on an exciting journey."

In her response, Ms Soeiro said her school didn't need the books, and questioned why the White House didn't offer the gift to underprivileged communities.

Ms Soeiro said even in her relatively wealthy school, "we still struggle to close the achievement gap, retain teachers of colour, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution".

"Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered," she wrote.

"Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatisation, and school 'choice' with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools. Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control?

"Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalised and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?"

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Cairns. Picture: Brendan RadkeSource:News Corp Australia
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Cairns. Picture: Brendan RadkeSource:News Corp Australia

Then, she said, there was "the matter of the books themselves". "You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche, a tired and worn ambassador for children's literature," Ms Soeiro wrote.

"Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss's illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you'll see the racist mockery in his art."

Ms Soeiro referred to a journal article titled "Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away from Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books" highlighting the "minstrel characteristics and trope nature of Seuss's characters".

She added that the new book Was the Cat in the Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature "further explores and shines a spotlight on the systemic racism and oppression in education and literature".

"I am honoured that you recognised my students and our school," she wrote.

"I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out. In return, I'm attaching a list of ten books (it's the librarian in me) that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband's administration."

American author Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, in 1976.Source:News Corp Australia
American author Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, in 1976.Source:News Corp Australia

As The Washington Post pointed out, even former President Barack Obama is one of Dr Seuss' many admirers, describing himself as "still a big Dr Seuss fan" in 2015. "Theodor Seuss Geisel - or Dr Seuss - used his incredible talent to instil in his most impressionable readers universal values we all hold dear," Mr Obama wrote.

"Through a prolific collection of stories, he made children see that reading is fun, and in the process, he emphasised respect for all; pushed us to accept ourselves for who we are; challenged preconceived notions and encouraged trying new things."

In a statement, the Cambridge school system said Ms Soeiro "was not authorised to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district", CBS Boston reported.

"We have counselled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes," the statement said.

Parents interviewed outside the school by the TV network were supportive of the librarian.

"That's the librarian's prerogative and I support her decision," Eric Munson said.

"I think the letter is really articulate, constructive in its suggestions," said Alex Vanpraagh.

Topics:  dr seuss editors picks melania trump

News Corp Australia

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