To All LFL Stewards,
As Read Across America (RAA) week approaches, the racism in children’s literature, most notably Dr. Seuss, whose birthday and books were celebrated for years in RAA, is an important and inevitable topic, one that recently surfaced on Little Free Library’s Facebook page for stewards. Unfortunately, helpful and insightful information was deleted as conversations escalated, rather than maintained, an error that LFL is addressing, and a learning dialogue was also lost to us, something also being addressed because at this particular time, dialogue is not only important, it is necessary.
As the Chair of the National Board of Little Free Library, but also as former coordinator of NEA’s Read Across America, I’d like to offer insight, particularly to those less aware of the shift away from Dr. Seuss. Though the shift happened officially following the publication of the research on racism in his children’s books, it had been a long time coming, a change I applauded both as a diverse books advocate and an Asian American. The creation of a diverse books calendar to amplify diverse authors was a step in that direction early on, and the formal switch was also in response to members deeply concerned by the research and identified orientalism, racist stereotypes, and more in early books. For those searching for the background, links to the research and coverage follow. You will also see in Learning for Justice an answer regarding later Seuss books like The Sneetches.
So what to do? For Read Across America, there are helpful tips online, and you will also find this year’s diverse books calendar. And the organization Colorful Pages gives you additional suggestions. We join Read Across America and other organizations doing this important work and focus.
Finally, it took time to process, address, and work on a path forward in our stewards’ Facebook group and we will continue. This should not be interpreted as an embrace of racism or racist literature. It is not surprising that the posts sharing resources and identifying concern with the racist stereotypes in Seuss and children’s literature were from stewards from marginalized communities, voices so critical to our work forward. Like all organizations at this critical juncture, Little Free Library is a learning organization and we so appreciate your concerns and feedback and take them as seriously as our commitment to the mission of Read In Color, our Impact Libraries and Native Impact Libraries, and all the great work all of you do in your communities.
Thanks for listening.
February 24, 2021
Anita Merina is the Chair of Little Free Library’s National Board of Directors. Anita joined the Little Free Library board after retiring from the National Education Association where she coordinated NEA’s Read Across America program. During her tenure, Anita helped create NEA’s Books Across America school library grants and partnerships with Youth Service America, First Book, Heart of America Foundation, Screen Actors Guild Foundation, Library of Congress, and We Need Diverse Books. Outside of literacy advocacy, Anita is a full-time glass artist.