The office of First Lady Melania Trump responded to a Massachusetts elementary school librarian who rejected her donation of 10 Dr. Seuss books, calling them “racist propaganda.”
In a statement to Fox News, Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for the first lady’s office, called the librarian’s response “unfortunate.”
“She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to children across the country is but one example,” she said. “To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the first lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”
As a kind gesture on “National Read a Book Day,” the first lady sent out a collection of 10 Dr. Seuss books to one school in each state across the nation. The titles included: “The Cat in the Hat;” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish;” “Wacky Wednesday;” “Green Eggs and Ham;” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
Other first ladies have taken a liking to Dr. Seuss books. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Barbara Bush have all read Dr. Seuss at various reading events.
“I wanted to send you a special gift. 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,” the first lady wrote in her letter to students. “Please also remember that you are the future of America and that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
But Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at a public school in Cambridge, wasn’t able to see the importance of the first lady’s gift. She informed the first lady in a stern letter that her school would “not be keeping the titles” for their collection, explaining that her school didn’t have a “NEED” for the books, due to her school and library’s “award-winning” status. The letter was later published on The Horn Book blog.
“I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to ‘excellence,’” Soeiro wrote. “My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science.”
Soeiro saw the move as the perfect embodiment of the education regime under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, moving resources around in all the wrong places. She slammed DeVos for not gifting the books to “underfunded and underprivileged communities,” which she suggested “continue to be marginalized” by DeVos’ policies.
She also considers Dr. Seuss books to be racist.
“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” Soeiro wrote, giving the examples of “If I Ran a Zoo” and “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” as clear “racist mockery” in Seuss’ art.
Soeiro admitted the gesture was wonderful in intention but says it could’ve been better thought out.
“I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. 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,” Soeiro wrote, attaching a list of 10 books that she hoped would “offer a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration.”
“You and your husband have a direct impact on these children’s lives,” Soeiro wrote, encouraging the first lady to “reach out” to their “local librarian” for recommendations. “Please make time to learn about and value them.”
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