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Spokane area voices show support for Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ choice to stop printing ‘hurtful and wrong’ books

UPDATED: Fri., March 5, 2021

Courtney Keating, education coordinator of the Literacy Center in Evansville, Ind., reads “If I Ran the Zoo” on Sept. 24, 2013.  (Associated Press)
Courtney Keating, education coordinator of the Literacy Center in Evansville, Ind., reads “If I Ran the Zoo” on Sept. 24, 2013. (Associated Press)

Many local literary voices agree with Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ choice to stop printing certain books over their depictions of people of color.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced this week its decision to remove six Dr. Seuss titles from circulation, citing a desire to better support “all children and families.”

Melissa Bedford, assistant professor of literacy at Eastern Washington University, agreed with the company’s choice to discontinue the titles.

The works slated for removal include “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the company’s statement reads. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”

In addition to the remaining Dr. Seuss books, Bedford said there is a wealth of new works by authors of color available to young readers.

“The amount of children’s literature written by authors and illustrators of color continues to grow and I think we should support (them) as much as possible,” Bedford said in an email Wednesday.

Research shows that the presence of diverse children’s books in schools and classroom libraries has a significant effect, Bedford said.

“These books can act as ‘windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors,’ affording students opportunities to see into the lives of people from diverse backgrounds, see themselves within the pages of books … and have a shared experience within the safe confines of those pages,” Bedford said, citing a 1990 article on multicultural literacy written by Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita at Ohio State University.

Spokane Public Montessori teacher Gayle Waner said she was glad Dr. Seuss Enterprises took action.

“I believe we should all look carefully at the books we share with children,” Waner said. “There are so many books I have used in the past, beloved books, that I am no longer comfortable using because … I know who they are leaving out and who they could hurt.”

Local children’s author Lauren Harris also expressed support for the company’s choice.

“I believe words need to encourage hope and inspire reasoning with the world,” she said, citing her experience as an author, reporter and educator. “Creatives and nonfiction documenters for children should be challenged: produce quality options for children that demonstrate unifying themes of goodness, patience, peace and kindness.”

Harris recommends Virginia Burton’s “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” P.D. Eastman’s “Go, Dog. Go!” and Arree Chung’s “Mixed: A Colorful Story.”

Janelle Smith, the owner of Wishing Tree Books, also shared her support for the company’s choice.

“The fact that it is the Dr. Seuss Enterprise making the decision to stop printing those six titles truly makes me feel hopeful,” she said. “The books are not being pulled from shelves and censored. No – those who ‘create’ the books have realized there were issues with what was being portrayed; (Seuss) himself admitted in his later years that he was not proud of some of his earlier creations. I’m sure it was a difficult decision – money is involved – but one they feel confident is the right decision.”

For parents considering Seuss alternatives, Smith recommends “Are You My Mother?” and “Go Dog, Go!” by Eastman and “Elephant and Piggie” by Mo Willems.

Bedford also shared a list of books and authors and illustrators of color for parents hoping to diversify their children’s reading.

Books

“Antiracist Baby,” by Ibram Kendi

“Eyes That Kiss in the Corners,” by Joanna Ho

“The Undefeated,” by Kwame Alexander

“Ruby’s Wish,” by Shirin Yim Bridges

“Firebird,” by Misty Copeland

“Same, Same But Different,” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Authors

Jacqueline Woodson, (“The Day You Begin,” “Each Kindness,” “The Other Side”)

Linda Sue Park, (“Bee-bim Bop,” “The Firekeeper’s Son,” “Tap Dancing on the Roof”)

Illustrators

Kadir Nelson, (“We Are the Ship,” “The Undefeated,” “Henry’s Freedom Box”)

Vashti Harrison, (“Little Leaders” series)

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