When a librarian rejects a shipment of some of the most popular children’s books in America from our First Lady, (we’re talking about books that are commonly found in virtually every school library) and uses “racism” as a reason for her rejection…somebody needs to first, get her some professional help and next, she needs to be fired. (The nasty letter written by the Cambridge PUBLIC school librarian can be found in its entirety at the end of the article.)
A school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, rejected a shipment of books that were donated by first lady Melania Trump, according to CBS Boston.
— The Horn Book (@HornBook) September 26, 2017
CBS Boston on Wednesday reported that Liz Phipps Soeiro of Cambridgeport Elementary School turned down the works Trump intended to send.
The White House chose one school in all 50 states to receive a package of 10 books authored by children’s literary author Dr. Seuss.
The initiative was meant to promote education and childhood literacy as part of National Read A Book Day.
Soeiro on Tuesday penned an editorial for the Horn Book’s Family Reading blog explaining why her school did not need the donation.
“My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in literary science,” she wrote.
“Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance,” Soeiro added.
Trump’s package reportedly included such Seuss classics as “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Cat in the Hat” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”
Soeiro criticized Seuss for being the only author represented in Trump’s donation, citing controversy over some of his illustrations.
“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,” she told Trump.
“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”
According to the School Library Journal when social justice warrior, Lizz Phipps Soeiro isn’t influencing the minds of young children with her progressive drivel, she’s working to influence the minds of the parents: Once a week, she invites a speaker for casual meetings with parents at the library. Guests have included the mayor, school committee members, and local artists. Following President Trump’s executive order banning travel from six Muslim nations, she invited a representative from the Council on American Islamic Relations and an attorney from the Muslim Justice League to speak to an audience including some 25 Muslim families about their rights. The lawyer met with individual families afterward.
The library’s collection reflects Phipps Soeiro’s commitment to social justice. Titles such as Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl and Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley’s I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark spark discussions about government and fairness. During a field trip to city hall, students sat in council chambers and asked questions of city leaders.
(So in other words, a donation of books from the wife of our Republican President just didn’t fit into the public school library that employs a narrow-minded liberal librarian.)
The Cambridge School system on Wednesday released a statement noting the opinions Soeiro expressed do not represent the district.
“In this instance, the employee was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district,” it said.
“We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.” –Circa
So there you have it…the librarian is being “counseled” and NOT fired!
If this story happened two years ago, and we inserted Michelle Obama’s name into the story instead of Melania Trump’s, does anyone think this would be a major news story with the school librarian’s face plastered all over every major news network?
Liz Phipps Soeiro can be found on Twitter at: @Cport_Special
Here is the nasty letter that was written by Liz Phipps Soeiro in reply to Melania Trump’s sweet gesture:
Dear Mrs. Trump,
Thank you for the ten Dr. Seuss titles that you sent my school library in recognition of this year’s National Read a Book Day. (Sent second-day air, no less! That must have been expensive.) I’m proud that you recognized my school as something special. It truly is. Our beautiful and diverse student body is made up of children from all over the world; from different socioeconomic statuses; with a spectrum of gender expressions and identities; with a range of abilities; and of varied racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
According to the White House website, you selected one school per state by “working with the Department of Education to identify schools with programs that have achieved high standards of excellence, recognized by State and National awards and Blue Ribbon Awards…” Each of those carefully vetted schools received ten books: Seuss-isms!; Because a Little Bug Went KaChoo; What Pet Should I Get?; The Cat in the Hat; I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; The Foot Book; Wacky Wednesday; Green Eggs and Ham; and Oh, the Places You’ll Go!.
My students were interested in reading your enclosed letter and impressed with the beautiful bookplates with your name and the indelible White House stamp, however, we will not be keeping the titles for our collection. I’d like to respectfully offer my explanation.
* * * * *
My school and my library are indeed award-winning. I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to “excellence.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an amazing city with robust social programming, a responsive city government, free all-day kindergarten, and well-paid teachers (relatively speaking — many of us can’t afford to live in the city in which we teach). My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance. The American Association of School Librarians has a great infographic on these findings. Many schools around the state and country can’t compete.
Yearly per-pupil spending in Cambridge is well over $20,000; our city’s values are such that given a HUGE range in the socioeconomic status of our residents, we believe that each and every child deserves the best free education possible and are working hard to make that a reality (most classrooms maintain a 60/40 split between free/reduced lunch and paid lunch). This offers our Title I school and the district a lot of privilege and room for programming and pedagogy to foster “high standards of excellence.” Even so, we still struggle to close the achievement gap, retain teachers of color, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution. But hell, we test well! And in the end, it appears that data — and not children — are what matters.
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. Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control? Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? Why not reflect on those “high standards of excellence” beyond only what the numbers suggest? Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets.
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.
I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out. Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding. In return, I’m attaching a list of ten books (it’s the librarian in me) that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration. You and your husband have a direct impact on these children’s lives. Please make time to learn about and value them. I hope you share these books with your family and with kids around the country. And I encourage you to reach out to your local librarian for more recommendations.
Liz Phipps Soeiro
Liz Phipps Soeiro is an elementary school librarian in the Cambridge, MA, Public Schools. She is an advocate for inclusive libraries and active in her community to create spaces that are welcoming to all students. She tweets @Cport_Special @ReflectLibrary and blogs at reflectivelibrary.blogspot.com