Story at a glance

  • Author Theodor Seuss Geisel, known by the pen name Dr. Seuss, has written dozens of children’s books, some of which include racist depictions.
  • The National Educators of America and others are distancing themselves from Geisel’s association with Read Across America Day.
  • In a break from the past, President Biden notably left out mention of the children’s author in his remarks on the day.

President Biden's proclamation on Read Across America Day notes the value of reading, the First Lady's view that “any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us,” estimates by the Department of Education that more than half of American adults lack proficiency in literacy and how different the day is with many students at home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

What it doesn’t mention is Dr. Seuss. 


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The Read Across America program, launched by the National Educators of America (NEA) in 1998 to promote children's literacy, has long been associated with Geisel’s birthday, both of which are celebrated on March 2. But this year even Dr. Seuss Enterprises is marking the day with an acknowledgement of the racism in the author’s children’s books.   

“One of the reasons we partnered with Seuss 20 years ago in 1997 was to kick-start this program. That was the strategy up front, so kids would see Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat and spark some attention” Steven Grant, a NEA spokesperson and manager of the Read Across America program, told the School Library Journal in 2018, adding that “last year was the first year in my 14 years [with NEA] that I had seen so much bubble up as far as concerned interests."


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In recent years, the NEA has distanced itself from Dr. Seuss, whose books and characters have been featured as part of the Read Across America campaign in the past. In 2019, the campaign rebranded with a new logo and the mission of “celebrating a nation of diverse readers," but said "of course, children still love Dr. Seuss, and his birthday on March 2, also Read Across America Day is still an ideal time for a school-wide reading event when you can serve green eggs and ham."

The shift has sparked false rumors of “banned books” in some school districts, but educators have stressed that the books are still allowed — just not promoted. 

"We continue to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms, however, Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day in Loudoun County Public Schools," said a Virginia school district last month.


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Published on Mar 02, 2021