A librarian at an elementary school in Cambridge, Masschusetts said she is rejecting books given to the institution by first lady Melania Trump.
As part of national Read a Book Day, the first lady sent a number of Dr Seuss titles to schools across the nation, selecting one school from each state to receive the books.
Liz Phipps Soeiro, the school librarian for Cambridgeport Elementary School, announced in an open letter to Trump that she would not be accepting the gift because her school was not in need of the additional books, also telling the first lady that “Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché.”
“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,” Phipps Soeiro wrote on The Horn Book’s Family Reading blog.
“My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science…. Many schools around the state and country can’t compete,” she added.
“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?” the librarian asked, in a post that has garnered attention from multiple media outlets.
“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,” she added. “Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”
Her school is not standing behind its librarian’s position, saying Phipps Soeiro did not speak on behalf of Cambridgeport Elementary School.
The employee was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district,” a statement from the school to CBS said.
“We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes,” the statement added.
Before signing off in her letter, the librarian thanked Melania for the books and said it was a “wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out.”
She added: “Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding. 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. You and your husband have a direct impact on these children’s lives. Please make time to learn about and value them.”