In honor of National Read a Book Day earlier this month, Melania Trump and the Department of Education sent 10 Dr. Seuss books to “schools with programs that have achieved high standards of excellence, recognized by State and National awards and Blue Ribbon Awards.”
Not only were they sending books into some of the most privileged schools — but the librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, described the first lady’s choices as “a bit of a clich├â┬⌐, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature.”
Because of this, Liz Phipps Soeiro decided to turn down the shipment — and later penned a letter explaining why.
In an editorial for The Horn Book‘s reading blog, Phipps Soeiro wrote:
“My school and my library are indeed award-winning. I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to ‘excellence.’ Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an amazing city with robust social programming, a responsive city government, free all-day kindergarten, and well-paid teachers (relatively speaking ├óΓé¼ΓÇ¥ many of us can’t afford to live in the city in which we teach). My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance.”
But, many schools aren’t so lucky:
“Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, 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 marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? Why not reflect on those “high standards of excellence” beyond only what the numbers suggest? Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets … So, my school doesn’t have a NEED for these books.”
Then, there are issues with the books themselves. The educator went on:
“You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a clich├â┬⌐, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature. As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips … Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”
While the teacher has a point here, the Cambridge school district reportedly released a statement saying Phipps Soeiro was “not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district”:
“We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”
Do U think the librarian made the right decision?? SOUND OFF in the comments (below)!
P.S. You can read her full response to Melania HERE!