By Tonya Kelly
The year 2021 still has the same undertone as 2020, but voices are stronger, louder, and more forceful. Parents and School districts worldwide are dealing with the pandemic, social-emotional learning of youth, and racial disparity happening in our classrooms.
Dr. Seuss would have been 117 years old today. His well renowned published books have come under fire again amid accusations of “racial undertones” in the classic, whimsical tales for children. Decades have gone by with teachers celebrating Dr. Seuss in their classrooms. The debate came up but with a different tone this year “Should schools and classrooms cancel/celebrate Dr. Seuss week as a part of reading Across America Day.”
Everything that has happened in this world over the past four years teachers ushered in a new wave of encouraging students in classrooms around the world to “read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflect the community you live in and not just about Dr. Seuss. President Biden was the first President ever in history to remove mentions of Dr. Seuss from reading Across America Day.
According to a 2019 study from the Conscious Kid’s Library and the University of California that examined 50 of Dr. Seuss’s books. “Of the 2,240 (identified) human characters, there are forty-five characters of color representing 2% of the total number of human characters”.
Youth have been exposed to so many offensive images via social media, print, and radio this year. I felt it was imperative to change the narrative for my third-grade classroom.
I chose not to celebrate Dr. Seuss and make Read Across America Day becoming a month of giving access to diverse books for young readers featuring friendships, daring heroes, brave kids of ethnicity, black characters at the forefront, stories that show inclusive, positive role models and learn about historical, national and local HBCU Women graduates who inspire to empower their communities. My goal was to show diversity and a chance to elevate all voices. (Tonya Kelly M.Ed. is a Third Grade Teacher in Columbus, Ohio)