Read Across America Day began in 1997
Read Across America Day began in 1997 as a day to celebrate Dr. Seuss and to get kids excited to read. For the past 20 years, teachers have had Wacky Wednesday, Silly Sock Day, and Green Eggs and Ham day. A few weeks ago I began to plan for the upcoming week when I noticed a question on a Facebook teacher group, “Is anyone still doing Dr. Seuss week? I have been hearing mixed feelings as we are in a time of accountability?” Having never heard of this I clicked on the post to read the comments… all 160 of them. There were five main points being made
- Yes, I am doing Dr. Seuss, We love Dr. Seuss week!
- Nope, he’s racist and if you read them you are racist
- When you know better, you do better
- Did I miss something?
- Umm, I don’t really see the problem, I never felt like a racist when I read his books…
How did I feel?
To put myself out there, my first feeling was number five. I started thinking about how excited I get reading his books. I put on a fake mustache and big eyelashes and read with a snargly voice as I “speak for the trees”. As we discuss where we would try green eggs and ham, actually making them in class, and seeing picky kids try new food. Watching the Sneetches go in and out of the machine to put stars on thars. And, as we see all of the trouble Thing One and Two cause running all through the house. Not to mention all of the times I have been asked to write a note in an “Oh, the places you go” book. I can understand why it would be hard for a teacher to give that all up.
Now, before you judge me, I then spent the next few weeks thinking about this, talking to my teacher friends, my mom, doing research on the internet, and reading the book “United” by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy. Some of you will say that isn’t enough. I know, but it’s a start.
Here is what I found out
- Most of my teacher friends had never heard of this either.
- My mom and I had a lengthy conversation about this topic. Her advice when I said that I was going to do a blog post on the subject was, “If you are going to cover such a debated topic then you will need to do it well.” She went to the book store the next day and bought me the book United, she will be the one that edits this post, and she is my biggest fan and supporter and she will put me in my place if I miss something!
- The research on the internet can take you down many rabbit holes. You will find information to support you, or debate you and you can’t count on it to be accurate. One rabbit hole I was led to was banned books. There is a huge list of banned books and for every reason that a school board or group of parents or teachers want to ban a book, another book can be banned for the opposite reason; Strega Nona was banned for promoting witchcraft, Hanzel and Gretel was banned for painting witches in a bad light, Tango makes three (true story of some penguins in a zoo) was banned for featuring a same-sex relationship, Draw me a star was banned for containing biblical undertones.
- Reading United probably had the biggest effect on me. I don’t know if you remember the evening that a man went into Mother Emanuel Church, with the desire to start a race war, and killed nine members of the congregation. But here in Charleston, most people can’t forget that day. However, the days that followed that horrific event are the days that make me proud to be a part of this great city. It’s sad that it takes these kinds of events to make people rise up. Ten to Fifteen Thousand people walked across a bridge in the span of two miles, hand-in-hand in unity, shouting “Charleston Strong!”, stood for a 5-minute moment of silence for the lost, and rallied around the members of Mother Emanuel. And do you know what the family members of the victims said to the emotionless man at his trial? Love is always stronger than hate! And that they were praying for his soul.
So what have I decided to do for Read Across America Day?
I have decided on love. Today, I was peeking around on Instagram and another teacher posted “Dr. Seuss was a racist, now that you know, choose these books instead…” The comments on this post made me weep for my fellow teacher friends! We have spent the last year doing what no other teacher has ever had to do, many teachers went to work today afraid of getting sick, teaching behind a mask and plexiglass, while students socially distance themselves or they are trying to teach online while keeping students engaged.
The comments were filled with hate and meanness. If you didn’t feel that you should do away with Dr. Seuss and immediately burn every Dr. Seuss book that you were evil and racist too. One person was literally sending vomit emojis to everyone that didn’t agree with her. Many teachers cheering as someone would say they were unfollowing the group.
How can these teachers not see the hypocrisy in calling someone racist and in the same breath bashing a fellow teacher? Was Dr. Seuss racist? Evidence points in that direction. Are there other books that could be read instead? hundreds! Could we all do a better job in the classroom? YUP! Am I going to change anyone’s mind with this post? Nope. The Be Kind movement… is that over, are we done with that? Apparently!
My Bible lesson today
“And the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this command; Love your neighbor as yourself” Galatians 5:14
This also happened to be my Bible lesson in my class today. Funny how God works like that. The lesson talked about who our neighbor is and how we can show love. The story used an example of someone in a wheelchair and how we should treat them. The next time we see someone that looks different than us, we should wave, smile, or say “Hi” instead of staring at them.
I don’t have time to hate people that hate me, I am too busy loving people that love me. -Unknown
Love is stronger than hate.