- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

An elementary school librarian in Massachusetts exceeded her authority when she rejected a shipment of Dr. Seuss books donated by first lady Melania Trump, the school district said.

The White House is recognizing schools across the country with programs that achieve “high standards of excellence” to receive 10 Dr. Seuss books in honor of National Read a Book Day. Cambridgeport Elementary School in Cambridge was one of the schools chosen to receive the books, but Liz Phipps Soeiro, the school’s librarian, declined to accept the donation, CBS News first reported.

In an open letter to Mrs. Trump, Ms. Soeiro said her school is indeed a high performing school, but that it still struggles “to close the achievement gap, retain teachers of color, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution.”

Ms. Soeiro questioned why lower performing schools aren’t just as deserving of the White House’s gesture.

“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,” she wrote. “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? “

The librarian also criticized the first lady’s book selections, which included “The Cat in the Hat,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “The Foot Book,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“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,” Ms. Soeiro wrote. “As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips.

“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” she added.

Ms. Soeiro said she appreciated Mrs. Trump’s “wonderful gesture,” but said it “could have been better thought out.”

She concluded her letter by recommending 10 children’s books that she said would open Mrs. Trump’s eyes to “the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration.”

Her list included Michael Hall’s 2015 children’s book about gender identity, “Red: A Crayon’s Story,” and Edwidge Danticat’s 2015 children’s book about illegal immigration, “Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation.”

The Cambridge school system said in a statement that the opinions in Ms. Soeiro’s letter 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,” the district said, CBS reported. “We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump said the librarian’s decision to bring politics into the situation was “unfortunate” and that the first lady is trying to “help as many children as she can.” 

“She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to children across the country is but one example,” Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for the first lady’s office, said in a statement to Fox News.

“To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”

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