The now controversial Dr. Seuss?
TINA L. SCOTT
On Mar. 2, in the United States, schools typically celebrate the birthday of prolific and beloved children’s author, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Traditionally, U.S. Presidents, including former President Barack Obama and former President Donald Trump, make annual “Read Across America” proclamations to coincide with his birthday, often including a tribute to Dr. Seuss as a part of that. But this year, in 2021, President Joe Biden conspicuously left the famous rhyming author out of his proclamation, and it didn’t go unnoticed.
Then Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced they would cancel six of his books from publication, to include: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra, Scrambled Eggs Super, and The Cat’s Quizzer, suggesting the books contain racist undertones. Those cancellations sparked a rush on demand for the books, and prices increased exponentially based on the demand. Ultimately, ebay announced they were also delisting the titles.
But not everyone agrees the books are racist or inappropriate. And the Merrill community doesn’t agree banning the books is the answer.
“We will not be pulling Dr. Seuss books from our shelves,” said Stacy Stevens, Director of the T.B. Scott Free Library. “The T. B. Scott Library has adopted and is guided by the principles outlined in the Freedom to Read Statement endorsed by the American Library Association and others. We trust our that our Merrill area patrons will read all materials with a critical eye.”
“Dr. Seuss plays a great role in literacy in our community and at the Library, where we have celebrated Dr. Seuss Day for many, many years,” Stevens said. “Dr. Seuss developed wonderful characters in the books that he wrote that generated laughter and an enormous love for reading. Dr. Seuss had the innate ability to create the craft of rhyme. Rhyming is a fundamental tool in early literacy skills, as it develops phonemic awareness and fluency. It is no surprise that Dr. Seuss continues to provide us with an opportunity for continued learning and growth.”
Sonja Doughty, Principal at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, agrees Dr. Seuss has left a positive and lasting legacy.
“St. Francis Xavier Catholic School has been celebrating Dr. Seuss week for many years,” Doughty said. “He was an amazing author that has encouraged many children to read since the 1930’s. Dr. Seuss books are filled with magical, mystical creatures that experience magical mystical not real experiences. They are fun and imaginative.”
“Many of his books promote acceptance, tolerance, and diversity,” she continued. “There is not a book in a school library that someone could not find controversial.”
She confirmed that St. Francis will not be pulling any Dr. Seuss books from their shelves, and they will continue to share them in the classroom as they have in the past.
“Dr. Seuss is an amazing author, and his books are used and loved by children of all ages,” said Kathy Yahr, School Administrator at Trinity Lutheran School.
“We have not discussed this as a staff, but I do not believe that we will pull them, just from conversations we’ve had casually,” she said.
“Giving students information and history of the era in which they were written would make for great teaching moments,” Yahr added.
Likewise, Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) have no plans to remove any of the targeted titles from school or classroom libraries, reading, or classroom discussions.
“Our policy outlines the specific process required for permanent removal. The process involves committee review and a specific decision-making process. It is not based on ceasing publication/sales,” said Dr. John Sample, Superintendent of MAPS.
“My professional thought is that he has provided decades of reading enjoyment for children,” Sample said. “He was very creative and his poetic meters have provided fond childhood memories for many readers.”
“We will continue to work closely with parents to encourage the love of reading and to educate parents and youth about the decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to cease publication of some Seuss books,” Stevens at the T.B. Scott Library added. “We share the Dr. Seuss Enterprises goals of supporting all children and their families and inclusion as articulated in our own Library Strategic Plan.”