blog post graphic of an African American girl looking at books on a shelf.

Read Across America is a program that promotes early literacy for all children. It is sponsored by the National Education Association. The literacy celebration, thus far, always corresponds with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The program began as a way to pay homage to Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka “Dr. Seuss”. March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Although the Read Across America event is one day, many teachers and schools have turned it into a week-long celebration. It will be recognized on Friday, March 1st this year.

Well…. this is where all of the delightfulness ends!
As you know, I love all things literacy. I looked forward to Dr. Seuss’ birthday every single year. Not was I simply celebrating my love of reading with my students, I was also celebrating Theodor Seuss Geisel. I was absolutely blind-sighted when I learned that my beloved author-illustrator was racist and full of hate.

Reflecting, I should have known that someone that didn’t like children probably wasn’t the nicest person. It’s one thing not to want to have children of your own. It is an entirely different beast to simply not like them- Ever! As a teacher, I might not like my children after a week of indoor recess. That is perfectly normal and acceptable. In general, I like them. Right??

 A little girl sitting at a table reading Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
At one point, I was trying to put as many Dr. Seuss books into the hands of all of my students. Learn to love to read!

Let me begin by telling you how much I LOVED and adored Dr. Seuss! I mean L-O-V-E-D Dr. Seuss. I didn’t love all of his books, but I had several favorites. Dr. Seuss tees lined my closet, I had two Cat in the Hat hats, and two Cat in the Hat plush toys. I even created a biographical resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store several years ago in his honor. Just in case you missed it, I LOVED Dr. Seuss. To be honest, I only liked a handful of his books, and have not read them all. But, what I liked, I really liked.

Heartache and Horror

Fast forward to approximately two years ago when I learned that Dr. Seuss was racist. This was right before Read Across America Week. Someone had posted several links to articles online that discussed his involvement in anti-Japanese and anti-Black cartoons, writings, and war propaganda. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe the level of heartbreak that I felt. A sucker punch! Wind-out-of-my-lungs kind of feeling! You can find similar articles here. Brace yourself!

A stack of 6 children's books, including Dr. Seuss, Dick and Jane, and Christmas stories. A white jar full of colored, wooden pencils rests on top of the stack of books

Devastation isn’t even close enough. My children learned how to read from several of his books. My African American children learned how to read from his writings. As an educator, I had exposed all of my students to this person during Read Across America Week. After “Dr. Seuss Week”, my students were imploring their parents to buy more Dr. Seuss books.

My sweet parents joyously obliged. Their kids were reading and loving every minute of it! Honestly, for that I am grateful. In spite of the horrid things that I learned, I still know that his books have encouraged countless numbers of children to read.

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

Fast forward to today, with Read Across America Week looming in the hills. I have decided to literally “read across America”. There will be no mention of Dr. Seuss in my classroom (by me). Instead, I will focus on books that celebrate the beauty of differences! I was inspired by this Instagram post. I saw it on the Multicultural Classroom’s IG page and was blown away by the idea!

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I absolutely love this idea from @themulticulturalclassroom! I’m in! 🙌🏾💕. Are you in, too? ・・・ This year for Read Across America week, I’m challenging you to truly “Read Across America”. What makes our country so beautiful is how diverse we all are. Let’s celebrate it by reading books that represent all children! So, I am challenging you instead of reading Dr. Seuss this year, provide your students with “windows” and “mirrors” and read some high quality diverse books during Read Across America week. If you are looking for suggestions of books you should follow these accounts: @weneeddiversebooks @diversereads @hereweeread #diversebooks #bookstagram #books #readacrossamerica #representationmatters #teachmet #teachmettoppicks #culturallyresponsivebooks #openupwindowsofwonders

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What This Might Look Like in Your Classroom

You don’t need to spend a great deal of money to bring Read Across America Week to life in your classroom! Take inventory of what you already have. Or, you can explore the vastness of your school or local library. Your options are limitless. All you need is one book a day. Create as many activities to support your book choice- write a poem, create a class mural, write a letter, illustrate your favorite part of the story, write about your least favorite part of the story, find the main idea and supporting details. Or, do as little additional activities as you like. Simply read the amazing books, if you like!

Perfect Timing!

My friend, Vera of The Tutu Teacher, must have been reading my mind! She posted this suggestion for planning out your week of read-alouds for Read Across America Week. Feel free to go to this post on my IG (Instagram) feed and comment on any books that you would add. Click on this link for this post or for my Instagram page.

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@thetututeacher has created a wonderful, inclusive, and easy plan for book selections that we can be inspired by for Read Across America Week! ・・・ Swipe to see each day. These are only suggestions and feel free to add any of your own personal favorites to the list. Here’s how the week goes: Day 1: Read a book about immigration Day 2: Read a book about a Famous American Day 3: Read a silly story Day 4: Read a book about different cultures Day 5: Read a book you ❤️ I tried Are there any books you’d add to the list? #teachmet #readacrossamericaweek #knowmoredomore #teachingispolitical #representationmatters #windowsandmirrorsinliteracy #diversereads

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Bring It Even Closer to Home

I also had this idea for ways to truly celebrate the beauty of America and all of our differences. What about featuring local authors?? A quick Google search or visit to your local library should reveal authors in your area or state. See if you can find one of their resources online or at the library and share that with your students. Perhaps you can contact that person and invite them to your school to read the book aloud to your students! They would absolutely love that. You could really bring the book to life this way.

What are your thoughts? Is this an idea that you can embrace and dive into for Read Across America Week?

I would love to hear your plans for bringing diverse children’s literature to life during this week of literacy celebrations. Leave a comment to let me know what books you have chosen to share with your students.

Photo Credits: National Education Association, Photos by Suad Kamardeen, Josh Applegate, and Debby Hudson

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