School Librarian Rejects Melania Trump’s Gift of Dr. Seuss Books

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A librarian at an elementary school in Massachusetts has rejected a gift of several books by Melania Trump, calling the First Lady’s choice of Dr. Seuss books “a bit of a cliche.”

Earlier this month, in honor of National Read a Book Day, Mrs. Trump said she would be sending 10 books to a school in each state.

The 10 books are all written by Dr. Seuss. They include:

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
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

The school librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School in Massachusetts wrote on The Horn Book, a blog about books for children and adults, explaining why she didn’t want the gift from the First Lady.

“My school doesn’t have a NEED for these books. And then there’s the matter of the books themselves. You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature,” wrote Liz Phipps Soeiro.

The First Lady said she was sending the books to high-achieving schools, something that Phipps Soeiro was opposed to.

Yearly per-pupil spending in Cambridge is well over $20,000; our city’s values are such that given a HUGE range in the socioeconomic status of our residents, we believe that each and every child deserves the best free education possible and are working hard to make that a reality (most classrooms maintain a 60/40 split between free/reduced lunch and paid lunch). This offers our Title I school and the district a lot of privilege and room for programming and pedagogy to foster “high standards of excellence.” Even so, we still struggle to close the achievement gap, retain teachers of color, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution. But hell, we test well! And in the end, it appears that data — and not children — are what matters.

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.

Phipps Soeiro also said that she thinks Dr. Seuss’ books “are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.” She also shared this letter that the First Lady sent to her:

“Getting an education is perhaps the most important and wondrous opportunity of your young lives,” Mrs. Trump said, in a letter to the children who will be receiving books. “I encourage each of you to take advantage of these special years while you are in school. Your education will be a lifelong pursuit that will sustain and carry you far beyond your wildest imagination, if you will let it. 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.”

Phipps Soeiro also included a list of books she would recommend to the First Lady.