Confusion Sparks Controversy Over LCPS and Dr. Seuss

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Ms. Emerson and one of her favorite books.

Written by Maeve Bauer, Mason Vacca, and Claire Davison

On February 27th, Loudoun County Public Schools responded to rumours that the county was banning Dr. Seuss books.  An on-line statement read: 

 

 “Schools in LCPS, and across the country, have historically connected Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss. Examples include anti-Japanese American political cartoons and cartoons depicting African Americans for sale captioned with offensive language.  Given this research, and LCPS’ focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction, LCPS provided this guidance to schools during the past couple of years to not connect Read Across America Day exclusively with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. We continue to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms, however, Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day in Loudoun County Public Schools.”

 

Seuss Enterprises removed six of Seuss’ books from publication due to questionable content towards the African American and Asian American communities. The books in question were And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, If I Ran The Zoo, and some other lesser known books.

 

Woodgrove Librarian Sarah Emerson says she was not surprised by Loudoun County’s choice to shift the focus off of Dr. Seuss and onto different authors.

 

Robert Kane, another librarian at Woodgrove, agrees with Emerson’s statement, explaining that everyone has different tastes in things like music, so they also have different tastes in books. It would make sense if the goal was to promote reading to have more book options for students.

 

After rumors and backlash through social media, students voiced their own opinions on the topic. “At first I was a bit shocked since he was such a childhood figure, but also it was more tolerated at the time so when I think about it, it’s really not that surprising,” says Sophomore Wynn Drenning. Dr. Seuss published his first book in 1937. At that time racial equality was very far from being achieved and sometimes racist statements were not seen as unjust or wrong. 

 

Seuss was a significant part of many students’ childhoods. “I have vivid memories of reading his books growing up,” says Braxton Raughton.  This raises the question of media impact on children. 

 

“Children can receive their first glimpse of people who are different from them in books; how people of different races, genders, cultures, and abilities are portrayed can show children how to relate to people who are different,” says Emerson. 

 

Sophomore Maddy Jones discusses some of the illustrations in Seuss books saying,“I am Asian myself. Those images are the first idea of Asian people that a child has. Kids are so impressionable; it’s going to be very hard to change that perception later on.” 

 

Kane says reading “broadens your perspective” and is especially important for children because, “They are continually developing their body of knowledge about how the world works, through personal experience and through reading about the experiences of others.” 

 

If you want to support Asian American and African American authors, here is a list of recommendations from our Woodgrove librarians:

 

YA Authors: Kwame Alexander, Jennifer Latham, Walter Dean Meyers, Daniel Nayeri, Emily X. R. Pan, Jason Reynolds, Randy Ribay, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, Kelly Yang, Marie Lu, Samira Ahmed, N.K Jemisin, Jason Reynolds, Ibram X Kendi

Adult Authors: Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Lisa See, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, Colin Whitehead
Graphic Novelists:  Gene Luen Yang, Trung Le Nguyen, Kwanza Osajyefo
Children’s Picture Books: Roda Ahmed, Denise Anika, Lucille Glifton, Thyra Heder, Grace Lin, Andrea Loney,  Jerry Pinkney, Ezra Jack Keats

Mr. Kane shares his favorite book written by an author of color.