On March 2nd STEM K-8 will celebrate Read Across America day with an emphasis on diverse children’s books. From the NEA Read Across America website: Over the past 20 years our classrooms have become broadly diverse, and educators need books that reflect the diversity of our classrooms and communities. We believe books should be mirrors and windows so our students can see themselves in the pages of the books they read. But just as important, we want them to be able to look into the lives of characters different from themselves to gain a better understanding of the similarities we all share.
Past literacy awareness efforts highlighted the connection between Read Across America and Dr. Seuss. This change is about greater understanding of the importance of multicultural representation in children’s literature, and increased awareness about the racial attitudes and imagery in the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Seuss was a supporter of the Japanese internment, and produced political cartoons incorporating slurs racist drawings of Japanese Americans. His collected works evidence an overwhelming preponderance of white characters and significant concerns regarding the depiction characters of colors in ways that reinforce stereotypes and racism. For those interested in learning more about the complex history of a famous children’s author, the following links offer more information: Rethinking Dr. Seuss for NEA’s Read Across America Day, Is the Cat in the Hat Racist?, and how some students used Dr. Seuss Week to teach about his racist cartoons. It’s upsetting to learn that our heroes and icons have complex pasts influenced and rooted in American racism. Rather than ignore or dismiss historical realities, we can examine our experiences and institutions from an anti-racist stance. How have our heroes, and ourselves, been shaped by and responded to racism? What was missed or learned, and how do people respond? How can the journey of others inform our choices?