In past years as Loudoun schools celebrated Read Across America, it was common to see a prominent guest reader—say the school division superintendent or a local mayor—sitting in front of a class donning the iconic red and white hat worn by Dr. Seuss’ most famous cat character. That’s unlikely to happen during this year’s event.
The school division leaders made global headlines over the weekend amid media reports stating that they had banned the author’s works.
Under increased scrutiny in recent years for allegations of systemic racism and inequality—including a landmark finding of discrimination by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office—the district is distancing from the children’s author. But they are not alone. The action is part of a nationwide discussion led by the Read Across America sponsor, the National Education Association on the legacy of Theodor Seuss Geisel following a 2017 report in which scholars identified racism in the illustrations and character development in his books and political cartoons. The NEA dropped the Dr. Seuss imagery from its Read Across America promotions two years ago.
But school leaders say they aren’t banning the author or his works. They released a formal statement on the “media rumor.”
“Dr. Seuss books have not been banned in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). LCPS believes this rumor started because March 2 is ‘Read Across America Day.’ Schools in LCPS, and across the country, have historically connected Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss. Examples include anti-Japanese American political cartoons and cartoons depicting African Americans for sale captioned with offensive language.
“Given this research, and LCPS’ focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction, LCPS provided this guidance to schools during the past couple of years to not connect Read Across America Day exclusively with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. We continue to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms, however, Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day in Loudoun County Public Schools,” the statement read.