• 70°

Library Notes: Coming to terms with the full legacy of Dr. Seuss

By Stephanie Reister
Rowan Public Library

The Rowan Public Library celebrates the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America Day every year on March 2, Dr. Seuss’s birthday. This year’s brought with it a reminder to examine Dr. Seuss’s legacy.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced its decision to discontinue sales and publication of six books due to racially offensive content. The books are “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.” RPL has copies of all these books.

There are people who think the caricatures are not upsetting, but they surely have not experienced institutionalized racism. The time has come to more openly acknowledge and discuss the existence of racial stereotypes in children’s books by Dr. Seuss/Theodor Geisel.

Four years ago, the NEA pulled back from using the “Cat in the Hat” character, which has been suspected of mirroring a blackface minstrel. The NEA also transformed Read Across America into a year-round initiative that promotes diversity and inclusion in children’s literature. This counters the mostly-white human character representation in Dr. Seuss books.

I think there is room to keep some controversial works to remind us of our country’s history of racism. However, such content in children’s picture books and beginning reader books is problematic. Young children have open minds that should have guarded access to stories and images of racial stereotypes.

Adults have a responsibility to discuss racism and work to end it with young people. The offending Dr. Seuss books could be used as teaching tools, except there are so many newer books with inclusive images and stories for kids to enjoy.

To bring up issues of racism about a beloved children’s author is like ripping off a Band-Aid that’s been on too long, yet Dr. Seuss cannot be removed from children’s literature. Theodor Geisel was an innovator in what has become the standard for beginning reader books. He introduced lively and humorous energy to what was a bland genre, albeit aimed at white readers.

Dr. Seuss wrote redeeming titles along with his troublesome tomes. “The Sneetches” deals with racial prejudice. “The Butter Battle Book” questions war. “The Lorax” supports caring for the environment.

Dr. Seuss also won’t disappear from storytimes. Plenty of his books can be used along with other titles to entertain diverse groups of kids and adults. I’ve enjoyed using “My Many Colored Days” about feelings and the colors associated with them. A great new book to use with it is “Black is a Rainbow Color” by Angela Joy in which a child reflects on the meaning of being Black.

In my role, it’s energizing to discover more representative voices, characters, and images. There are many wonderful authors and illustrators of color, including some of my favorites: Dan Santat, Kadir Nelson, LeUyen Pham, Bryan Collier, Jerry Pinkney, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Brian Pinkney.

I’m happy to see that publishers are offering more diversity in children’s literature. You can visit any of RPL’s locations to find growing diversity in our children’s collections.

Theodor Geisel’s legacy in children’s literature may be tarnished, but it should not be forgotten. Words from “The Lorax” can help move us forward with our thoughts and actions, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Stephanie Reister is children’s librarian at the South Branch of the Rowan Public Library.

About Post Lifestyles

Visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalPostLifestyle/ and Twitter @postlifestlyes for more content

email author More by Post

Comments

Coronavirus

Rowan County sees 300th death attributed to COVID-19

BREAKING NEWS

Chauvin convicted on all counts in George Floyd’s death

Local

Top North Carolina House finance chair, Rowan representative stripped of position

Crime

One charged, another hospitalized in fight between cousins

Local

Bell Tower Green renamed to honor Stanbacks; Nancy Stanback receives key to city

Business

Commissioners green light additional houses at Cherry Treesort in China Grove

Education

A.L. Brown will hold in-person, outdoor graduation

Local

Granite Quarry awards FEMA contract for Granite Lake Park

Local

City to vote on apartment developments, final phases of Grants Creek Greenway project

High School

High school football: North receiver McArthur a rising star

Columnists

Carl Blankenship: Pollen and prejudice make their return

News

Harris pitches $2.3T spending plan on trip to North Carolina

Nation/World

Murder case against ex-cop in Floyd’s death goes to the jury

Crime

Sheriff’s office: Man takes deputies on chase with stolen moped

Coronavirus

Afternoon, evening COVID-19 vaccination clinic planned Thursday

Crime

Concord man charged with woman’s murder in drive-by shooting

Ask Us

Ask Us: Have city, county elected officials received COVID-19 vaccine?

Local

City gives away nearly 100 trees during ‘We Dig Salisbury’ event

Local

Political Notebook: Bitzer expects most ‘Trump-like’ candidate to be favorite in state’s Senate race

Crime

Blotter: Concord man arrested in Rowan for indecent liberties with children

Coronavirus

Half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

Nation/World

Police: FedEx shooter legally bought guns used in shooting

News

Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 115 … or 116?

Local

Size of pipeline spill again underestimated in North Carolina