Trump had sent a collection of 10 Seuss books, including The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, to schools across the country to mark National Read a Book Day. One school in each state, identified by the US department of education as having achieved high standards of excellence, received a package along with a letter signed by the first lady telling pupils that “the key to achieving your dreams begins with learning to read”.
But Liz Phipps Soeiro, an award-winning school librarian at Cambridgeport elementary school in Massachusetts, turned down the offer, saying that her school has no need for the books. In a letter posted on the Horn Book site, she suggested that Trump should send the books to schools with fewer resources.
“Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalised and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?” Phipps Soeiro asked. “Why not reflect on those ‘high standards of excellence’ beyond only what the numbers suggest? Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets.”
. . . “I am honoured that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out,” she wrote, sending Trump a list of 10 alternative books “that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration”. Among them are Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie and Beth Lo, which looks at the homesickness of immigrants, and Edwidge Danticat’s Mama’s Nightingale, in which a Haitian American child’s mother is imprisoned for having no papers. Phipps Soeiro said she hoped the titles would help Trump see “the beautiful resilience of children who stand up to racism and oppression and for social justice and reform”
“You and your husband,” she said, “have a direct impact on these children’s lives. Please make time to learn about and value them. I hope you share these books with your family and with kids around the country. And I encourage you to reach out to your local librarian for more recommendations.””
Read librarian Liz Phipps Soiero’s letter to Melania Trump Here:
Read Soiero’s list of 10 alternative books here:
Read the full Guardian article here: