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White House ‘Read Across America’ proclamation politicizes book day

In the course of marking the March 2 event, the president pushed an educational rescue plan that critics say is a waste of money.

Books. Credit: Pixabay.
Books. Credit: Pixabay.

Less than a week after it was reported that a publisher of Roald Dahl’s books was changing the controversial writer’s words—for example, swapping “parents” for “mothers and fathers”—a White House proclamation for Read Across America Day quoted another author accused of being racist: Dr. Seuss.

“‘The more that you read,’ Dr. Seuss wrote, ‘the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go,’ ” President Joe Biden wrote in the announcement.

In the next paragraph, he noted that children do not have equal access to books, particularly those in “historically underserved communities.”

But then the announcement went on to tout the White House’s controversial American Rescue Plan, which it called “a historic $122 billion to help schools reopen safely, promote academic recovery, increase teacher pay, enhance mental health services, and expand afterschool and summer programs,” but that critics call “a huge waste.”

Read Across America Day on March 2 was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who was born on that day in 1904 (he died in 1991). Some teachers and students would don red-and-white striped high hats in the past—the sort popularized by a Dr. Seuss favorite, “The Cat in the Hat.”

But following the March 2021 announcement that Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which safeguards the writer’s legacy, would no longer publish six of his books deemed racist, dressing up for the day has become less apparent. And the volumes in question have become scarcer in many schools.

The National Education Association, which founded the annual Read Across America day, stated that the day is now “independent of any one particular book, publisher or character.”

March is also National Reading Month.

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