Librarian Turns Down Book Donation From First Lady Melania Trump

Librarian, Liz Phipps Soeiro, declined the book donation given for National Read A Book Day.

While the Cambridgeport Elementary School board said she was unauthorized to decline the donation, Soerio has spoken out about her reasons for her actions. In a blog post the librarian wrote, she was appreciative of the kind gesture by Mrs. Trump, stating, “I’m proud that you recognized my school as something special. It truly is.”

But as she pens on, Soerio explains why her school did not need the donation.

“Yearly per-pupil spending in Cambridge is well over $20,000… 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.”

She went on to say, “So, 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. As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips. Just down the street you have access to a phenomenal children’s librarian: Dr. Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress. I have no doubt Dr. Hayden would have given you some stellar recommendations.

Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art. Grace Hwang Lynch’s School Library Journal article, “Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away from Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books,” reports on Katie Ishizuka’s work analyzing the minstrel characteristics and trope nature of Seuss’s characters. Scholar Philip Nel’s new book, Was the Cat in the Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books, further explores and shines a spotlight on the systemic racism and oppression in education and literature.”  – Dear Mrs. Trump September 26, 2017 by Liz Phipps Soeiro

By declining the donation, Soeiro is acknowledging harmful sterotypes in the books donated and the privileges her students and school are given while bringing awareness to other school districts that have fallen on hard times. With this gesture, hopefully, the First Lady can realize this reality and consider other, less prosperous schools for donations in the future.

Do you agree with the librarian’s actions?

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