For over two decades, the March 2 birthday of renowned children’s book author Dr. Seuss has been commemorated with Read Across America Day, a holiday that celebrates everyone’s favorite pastime: reading.
But with many activists recently pointing out the problematic racial undertones of Dr. Seuss books and characters, a number of schools are distancing the author from Read Across America Day, instead opting to highlight other diverse characters and writers.
So, how exactly is Dr. Seuss racist? Is the children's book author canceled? Keep scrolling for everything you need to know.
Is children’s author Dr. Seuss racist?
Until recently, Read Across America Day was the unofficial National Dr. Seuss Day. The countrywide initiative is celebrated on March 2, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and schools often highlight some of the author’s most loved characters.
But over the past few years, Dr. Seuss has received a lot of criticism for the racial undertones in his books, as well as for problematic personal opinions held by the author himself. Although his books have been a children’s reading staple for years, many groups are now requesting that schools avoid reading Dr. Seuss books on Read Across America Day.
In 2019, Learning for Justice published an article titled, “It's Time to Talk About Dr. Seuss,” which cites a study that explored the many stereotyped characters that appear in Dr. Seuss books.
In a survey of 50 Dr. Seuss books, researchers concluded that only 2 percent of all the characters in Dr. Seuss books are characters of color. What's more, that the majority of the depictions of these characters were aligned with harmful racial stereotypes and tropes.
So, is Dr. Seuss canceled?
Activists citing this study are pushing for schools to move away from focusing on Dr. Seuss books for the March 2 holiday and instead, to promote more diverse books that allow all students to see themselves reflected in a positive and uplifting way.
Virginia’s Loudon County Public Schools are the latest to drop Dr. Seuss from their Read Across America Day celebrations.
In an announcement obtained by The Daily Wire, the administration explained that as schools across the country geared up “to celebrate ‘Read Across America Day’ in partial recognition of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it is important for us to be cognizant of research that may challenge our practice in this regard."
The district continued to say that “as we become more culturally responsive and racially conscious, all building leaders should know that in recent years there has been research revealing radical undertones in the books written and the illustrations drawn by Dr. Seuss.”
*Trigger Warning* For those celebrating #DrSeuss today for #ReadAcrossAmerica Day, this is why we are not [THREAD]. We need to be aware of the racism embedded in children's books & popular culture, & its implications to the development of anti-Blackness & racial bias in children. pic.twitter.com/PtmVl0b6G3— The Conscious Kid (@consciouskidlib) March 2, 2018
The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers' union, also stands behind the push to move away from focusing on Dr. Seuss books for the holiday, but cautions teachers from an outright ban of the books. They suggest that teachers directly discuss Dr. Seuss’ racist legacy, especially with older students, and explore the ways in which racism can show up in places people least expect.
As Dr. Seuss scholar and author of Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books Philip Nel argues, Dr. Seuss books contain “both much to admire and much to oppose.”
But in the end, it’s up to each reader to “face up to your problems / whatever they are,” as so elegantly advised in the famed author’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!.