Photo credit | Library Journal
Childhood illiteracy is still one of the biggest problems in the American education system. It is also a cause near and dear to the heart of First Lady, Melania Trump. But, a librarian at a Massachusetts elementary school cares nothing about either of those facts. In fact, she is returning a shipment of books, donated to her school by the first lady.
Liz Phipps Soeiro is the head librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary school in Cambridge, MA. Her school is one of several around the country that is receiving 10 Dr. Seuss books, to celebrate National Read a Book Day. “Getting an education is perhaps the most important and wondrous opportunity of your young lives,” Trump says in a letter to those receiving the books.
However, Soeiro doesn’t want the books. Even worse, after rejecting the shipment, she insults Melania’s efforts. In a subtly-scathing editorial defending her decision, she explains why the school doesn’t need the books. While she thanks Mrs. Trump for recognizing the school’s achievements, it doesn’t take long for the insults to emerge.
Significantly, Soeiro points out that she holds a graduate degree and that she works in an exceptional library. Moreover, she attacks Melania for choosing her school and not one that serves underprivileged children. After pointing out those irrelevant facts, the letter then turns to the racism embedded in Dr. Seuss stories.
“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” claims Soeiro. “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.”
Additionally, the librarian calls the Dr. Seuss books a “cliché” saying they are a “tired and worn ambassador of children’s literature.” Soeiro also rebukes Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, blaming her for policies that “underfund and marginalize” schools with majority minority students.
Thanks but No Thanks
Photo credit | hbook.com
In the closing, Soeiro once again thanks, Melania but suggests her decision was a bad one. Ironically, after she boasts about having over 9,000 titles, she gives the first lady a wish list. “I hope these books will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration.”
Consequently, the school district is reprimanding Soeiro. Saying her editorial “does not represent the district,” they confirm the librarian has no authority to return Melania’s gift. “We are counseling the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against using public resources for political purposes,” the district said.