A school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, declined First Lady Melania Trump's gift of books sent earlier this month as part of National Read a Book Day.
“Getting an education is perhaps the most important and wondrous opportunity of your young lives,” Mrs. Trump wrote in a letter to the recipients.
She continued, “Remember, the key to achieving your dreams begins with learning to read. Find what you enjoy, anything that interests you, and read about it. Every page will take you on an exciting journey.”
The White House selected one school from each state to receive ten books by Dr. Seuss, including “Oh, the Places You'll Go!” — a favorite of the first lady and her son Barron.
Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soerio, however, critiqued the gift in a blog post, noting that her school was already well equipped and thus had no need for it.
“My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance,” wrote Phipps Soeiro.
After contrasting Cambridge's above-average spending per pupil with cities like Philadelphia and Detroit, she asked: “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?”
Phipps Soerio is apparently no fan of Dr. Seuss, either.
“You may not be aware of this,“ she continued, ”but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature. As first lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips.”
She goes further. “Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” she claims.
Finally, Phipps Soerio provides Melania with a list of ten books of her own that offer “a window into the lives of the many children affected by the politics of your husband's administration.”
The Cambridge school system released a statement shortly thereafter, which read in part, according to CBS Boston:
In this instance, the employee was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district. We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.
The librarian's letter received a mixed response.
While some commenters on her blog post admired her thoughtfulness and honesty, others charged that she was ungrateful and self-righteous. One critic pointed out that President Obama declared March 2, 2016, Read Across America Day in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday and suggested that had Michelle Obama sent the books, they might have been received differently.
Watch the news report below.