Some might call her a Grinch

Li­brar­ian re­jects Dr. Seuss books from Me­la­nia Trump on ‘Na­tional Read a Book Day’ be­cause of ‘racist pro­pa­ganda’

Pawtucket Times - - OBITUARIES / REGION - By RACHEL CHASON The Wash­ing­ton Post

One of Me­la­nia Trump's fa­vorite books is Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go!," which she read with her son, Bar­ron, "over and over" when he was younger.

The first lady, who is in­creas­ingly carv­ing out a pub­lic pro­file for her­self, chose the clas­sic chil­dren's book and nine other Dr. Seuss ti­tles to send to anele­men­tary school in Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, in cel­e­bra­tion of "Na­tional Read a Book Day."

But a li­brar­ian at Cam­bridge­port School re­fused to ac­cept the gift, crit­i­ciz­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies and im­ages in the books.

Seuss' il­lus­tra­tions are "steeped in racist pro­pa­ganda, car­i­ca­tures, and harm­ful stereo­types," li­brar­ian Liz Phipps Soeiro wrote in a let­ter to Trump on Tues­day.

The li­brar­ian wrote that rather than send­ing books to a well-funded el­e­men­tary school in Cam­bridge, Trump should in­stead be de­vot­ing re­sources to schools in "un­der­funded and un­der­priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ties" that are "marginal­ized and ma­ligned by poli­cies put in place by Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Betsy DeVos." Crit­ics view DeVos, a bil­lion­aire who has worked for decades to pro­mote school choice, or al­ter­na­tives to tra­di­tional pub­lic schools, as one of the most anti-pub­lic-ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­taries in the depart­ment's his­tory.

Giv­ing the books was part of Trump's ef­fort to use her plat­form "to help as many chil­dren as she can," White House spokes­woman Stephanie Gr­isham said.

Those ef­forts in­clude host­ing a roundtable dis­cus­sion Thurs­day about the opi­oid epi­demic, in­clud­ing how it af­fects youths, and speak­ing at a lun­cheon on the side­lines of the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly about work she hopes to do as an anti-bul­ly­ing ad­vo­cate.

The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion chose one high-achiev­ing school in every state to re­ceive a pack­age of books from Trump, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the White House.

"Turn­ing the ges­ture of send­ing young school chil­dren books into some­thing di­vi­sive is un­for­tu­nate, but the First Lady re­mains com­mit­ted to her ef­forts on be­half of chil­dren ev­ery­where," Gr­isham said.

In her let­ter to chil­dren re­ceiv­ing the books, Trump called get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion "per­haps the most im­por­tant and won­drous op­por­tu­nity of your young lives."

"Your ed­u­ca­tion will be a life­long pur­suit that will sus­tain and carry you far be­yond your wildest imag­i­na­tion, if you will let it," she wrote. "Re­mem­ber, the key to achiev­ing your dreams be­gins with learn­ing to read."

On Sept. 6, she en­cour­aged everyone to read a book, and to let every page "take you on an ex­cit­ing jour­ney."

The Cam­bridge school sys­tem re­leased a state­ment say­ing the li­brar­ian "was not au­tho­rized to ac­cept or re­ject do­nated books on be­half of the school or school district," ac­cord­ing to CBS Bos­ton.

"We have coun­seled the em­ployee on all rel­e­vant poli­cies, in­clud­ing the pol­icy against pub­lic re­sources be­ing used for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses," the district said in the state­ment. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the school sys­tem did not re­spond to re­quests from The Wash­ing­ton Post for com­ment.

Phipps Soeiro points to re­cent lit­er­a­ture that ad­dresses po­ten­tial racism in Seuss' work, in­clud­ing a book by pro­fes­sor of chil­dren's lit­er­a­ture Philip Nel that ar­gues Seuss' de­pic­tion of the Cat in the Hat was based on racial stereo­types and in­spired by tra­di­tions of black­face en­ter­tain­ment.

She also calls Seuss "a bit of a cliché" and a "tired and worn am­bas­sador for chil­dren's lit­er­a­ture" in her let­ter posted on the Horn Book, a pub­li­ca­tion cov­er­ing lit­er­a­ture for chil­dren and adults.

Many of the com­ments on Phipps Soeiro's post com­mended her for tak­ing a stand, but oth­ers sug­gested she was "rude" and "un­grate­ful" not to have ac­cepted Trump's gift.

"I am ap­palled by this. How about teach­ing our chil­dren to be grate­ful for a gift, ac­cept the gift and say thank you?" a com­menter wrote, re­spond­ing to Phipps Soeiro's post.

Par­ents out­side the school told CBS Bos­ton they sup­ported the li­brar­ian's state­ment.

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

Seuss has long been as­so­ci­ated with chil­dren's lit­er­acy. The Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion's an­nual "Read Across Amer­ica" day – when cities and towns across the coun­try host events to cel­e­brate read­ing – is March 2, Seuss' birth­day.

"One of the rea­sons we part­nered with Seuss 20 years ago in 1997 was to kick-start this pro­gram," NEA spokesman Steven Grant told the School Li­brary Jour­nal.

"That was the strat­egy up front, so kids would see Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat and spark some at­ten­tion."

He said an es­ti­mated 45 mil­lion stu­dents and teach­ers take part in the read­ing events an­nu­ally, and that in the past two years, the pro­gram's mis­sion has been shift­ing to­ward pro­mot­ing di­verse lit­er­a­ture.

But the au­thor still has many ad­mir­ers, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who said he is "still a big Dr. Seuss fan" when he vis­ited a li­brary in South­east Wash­ing­ton in 2015.

He hailed Seuss as "one of Amer­ica's revered word­smiths" in a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion on 2016's Read Across Amer­ica Day.

"Theodor Seuss Geisel – or Dr. Seuss – used his in­cred­i­ble tal­ent to in­still in his most im­pres­sion­able read­ers uni­ver­sal val­ues we all hold dear," Obama wrote.

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

But Phipps Soeiro wrote that as first lady, Trump has "world-class re­sources" that she could have used to make a choice other than the Seuss books.

"Just down the street you have ac­cess to a phe­nom­e­nal chil­dren's li­brar­ian: Dr. Carla Hay­den, the cur­rent Li­brar­ian of Congress," she wrote. "I have no doubt Dr. Hay­den would have given you some stel­lar rec­om­men­da­tions."

She noted that in Cam­bridge, where yearly per-pupil spend­ing is more than $20,000, her stu­dents have ac­cess to "a school li­brary with over nine thou­sand vol­umes and a li­brar­ian with a grad­u­ate de­gree in li­brary sci­ence." NEED

"So, my school doesn't have a for th­ese books," wrote Phipps Soeiro, who could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

Other school li­braries in cities in­clud­ing Philadel­phia, Chicago and Detroit are be­ing closed be­cause of ex­pan­sion, pri­va­ti­za­tion and school choice, she wrote.

"Are those kids any less de­serv­ing of books sim­ply be­cause of cir­cum­stances be­yond their con­trol?" she asked.

The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion could not be reached for com­ment about its cri­te­ria for se­lect­ing Cam­bridge­port School or the other 49 schools.

The 10 books on the list are: "Seuss-isms!"; "Be­cause a Lit­tle Bug Went KaChoo"; "What Pet Should I Get?"; "The Cat in the Hat"; "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"; "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish"; "The Foot Book"; "Wacky Wed­nes­day"; "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

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