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This year’s Read Across America Day brought news from Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company responsible for the preservation and protection of Theodor Geisel’s legacy, with six of the author’s classics, all of which were specifically named among those with harmful depictions of the breed. is no longer published.
Until recently, March 2nd was the birthday of Dr. Seuss celebrated. The National Education Association (NEA) launched the event they launched in 1998 to present them to Dr. Seuss’ birthday, renamed and expanded as Read Across America Day. Read Across America Day aims to focus on multiple readings and ensure that children in the United States are exposed to stories that show the realities of their world.
The legacy and work of Dr. Seuss have been questioned over the past decade, thanks in part to the work of scholar Phil Nel and his groundbreaking book Was the Cat in the Hat Black ?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books. Others have done similar work, showing the problematic, racist imagery in a number of Seuss’ beloved works.
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While many readers struggle to strike the balance between the nostalgia of Seuss’ books and the reality of his harmful depictions of race in his work, other institutions like the NEA have tried to distance themselves from the author’s legacy. Schools have shifted their focus to highlight a wider range of different children’s books, particularly around Read Across America Day.
“These books point people in hurtful and wrong ways,” said Dr. Seuss Enterprises in a statement to The Associated Press. “The cessation of sales of these books is only part of our commitment and broader plan to ensure that the Dr. Seuss Enterprises catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
The six books include And Thinking I Saw It On Mulberry Street When I Run The Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra !, Scrambled Eggs Awesome !, and The Cat’s Quizzer.
Despite growing demand for better scrutiny and discussion of Seuss’ work, he remains the second highest paid dead celebrity, grossing over $ 33 million in 2020. His work has been sold in over 100 countries.
Seuss is hardly the first author whose work has been questioned as more researchers – and more tools to advocate scholars, passionate readers, parents, educators, and other gatekeepers – have re-examined so-called classic books. The work done is not aimed at completely removing the books, but rather to approach them with care, thoughtfulness and in conjunction with books that show a better and more conscious portrayal of a wide variety of people and history. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series continues to keep readers and scholars engaged in discussions about indigenous peoples’ representation. Organizations like the American Library Association choose to remove Wilder’s name from one of their most prestigious awards to better capture the spirit of the award. The award is now known as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
Roald Dahl is another writer who has received criticism in recent years.
This is not the first time that those who care about the preservation of the estate and legacy of Dr. Use Seuss, respond to criticism. In 2018, the Dr. Seuss Museum in Seuss’ hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, a mural because of its racist Asian stereotypes.
Many will be shouting at the censors at this step to stop publishing these six titles, but this is a step forward to acknowledge the pain many feel towards these books and this author. In no way is Seuss’ work entirely disposed of; Rather, the work of scholars and lawyers at the highest level is heard and taken into account. This is a hopeful step into further conversation about the power of books and reading, as well as a step to better incorporate a wide and diverse range of stories into teaching and sharing with young readers.