School rejects Melania Trump's book donation: 'Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche'

Posted at 12:14 PM, Sep 29, 2017

When first lady Melania Trump sent packages of Dr. Seuss children's books to one deserving school in each state across the country to celebrate National Read-a-Book Day earlier this month, she likely didn't expect any of them to be rejected.

But that's just what Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, did.

"My students were interested in reading your enclosed letter and impressed with the beautiful bookplates with your name and the indelible White House stamp, however, we will not be keeping the titles for our collection," wrote Soeiro in an open letter on a book blog, saying her reasons for rejecting the Seuss titles, 10 in total, was due to her school being in a district that already had plenty of resources. She also heartily disagrees with the Trump administration's education platforms.



Additionally, Soeiro is not a big fan of Dr. Seuss.

"You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children's literature," Soeiro wrote to Trump. "As first lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips. Just down the street you have access to a phenomenal children's librarian: Dr. Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress. I have no doubt Dr. Hayden would have given you some stellar recommendations."

Soeiro said Seuss's illustrations are "steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures and harmful stereotypes."

East Wing communications director Stephanie Grisham, fired back at Soeiro.

"To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the first lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere," she said.

According to the White House, before sending the books, the first lady worked with the Education Department to select schools around the nation that had high standards of excellence, special programs and that been recognized for achievement.

"Getting an education is perhaps the most important and wondrous opportunity of your young lives," Trump said in a letter to the students receiving the books. "I encourage each of you to take advantage of these special years while you are in school. Your education will be a lifelong pursuit that will sustain and carry you far beyond your wildest imagination, if you will let it."

She added: "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."

She has previously said Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go" was one of her favorite books to read to her son, Barron Trump, 11, when he was younger.

The Cambridge public school system, which employs Soeiro, issued a statement to CNN in the wake of the librarian's public rejection of the gift saying the librarian's opinion did not represent a "formal" rejection of the gift.

"Cambridge Public Schools supports the right of our employees to voice their personal opinions. The opinions expressed in the Horn Book editorial were those of the writer, and not a statement on behalf of Cambridge Public Schools. This was not a formal acceptance or rejection of donated books, but a statement of opinion on the meaning of the donation," the statement said.

It continued: "We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including donations policies and the policy against public resources being used for political purposes. While we enthusiastically support the political engagement and passion of our employees, in this instance the editorial posted online gave the impression that the statement reflected the position or actions of the Cambridge Public Schools. Our school district did not authorize any such statement."

Grisham said the rejection of the books in this instance isn't going to have an effect on the first lady's desire to inspire kids.

"Mrs. Trump intends to use her platform as first lady to help as many children as she can. She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to children across the country is but one example," she said.