Dr. Seuss Books Dropped by Virginia School System for 'Read Across America' Day Due to 'Strong Racial Undertones'

A Virginia county public school system is pushing back against media reports that it "canceled" Dr. Seuss' work for National Read Across America Day, a celebration associated with the Green Eggs and Ham author's birthday. After earning national attention for its decision over the weekend, Loudoun County Public Schools clarified that it is simply giving guidance to its teachers not to exclusively connect the holiday to Seuss' birthday in an effort to promote equality and inspiring students to read the work of other authors. The district also cited recent research into Seuss' work that there are "strong racial undertones" in his books.

On Friday, The Daily Wire claimed Dr. Seuss was "canceled" and cited a 2019 article titled "It's Time to Talk About Dr. Seuss" from Learning For Justice, an organization that provides free resources to educators to help create inclusive communities. The article was published a short time after St. Catherine University published a study on Seuss' books, finding that the author included several racial stereotypes across his books. The Daily Wire framed the Loudoun County Public Schools' decision as a response to this.

However, Learning for Justice pointed out that the National Education Association began shifting the focus of Read Across America Day away from Dr. Seuss exclusively in 2017. In fact, the NEA points out on its website that it no longer partners with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. "There’s a growing need for schools and libraries to include and promote diverse books," the statement reads. "Students need books that provide both windows and mirrors if we are going to create more readers, writers, and people who feel included and recognized, and who understand that the world is far richer than just their experiences alone. NEA recognizes the need to work with a more diverse array of organizations and publishers to fulfill this need, and the Read Across America brand is now one that is independent of any one particular book, publisher, or character."

On Monday, the Loudoun County Public Schools released a statement, clarifying that Seuss' books have not been banned at all. The district is merely following recent guidance from the NEA not to exclusively associate Read Across America Day with Seuss' birthday. "We want to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive and diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day," the district's statement reads. "That being said, Dr. Seuss books have not been banned; they are still available to students in our libraries and classrooms."

Dr. Seuss is the pen name for Theodor Seuss Geisel, whose books are among the best-selling children's books in the world. His birthday is March 2, which is why Read Across America Day was tied so strongly to the author in the past. In recent years, some of Seuss' books have come under scrutiny for depicting racial stereotypes. However, his books continue to widely available.