If you follow many teacher-authors on social media, you may have heard about some controversy surrounding Read Across America and Dr. Seuss. Over the past few months, I have really tried to lean into some uncomfortable feelings about racism, privilege, and being an ally. One thing I’ve learned is to listen. When black educators are telling me something is racist, I need to listen. This isn’t the first year it has come up, and I definitely don’t think it will be the last. But there are many, many teachers, librarians, and advocates pleading with teachers to move on from him.
Full disclosure, I’ve actually never been a huge fan of his books in my classroom. I found them really long and wordy, and my English Language Learners and emergent readers really struggled with his made up words. They don’t hold much sentimental value to me, so I never spent much time studying him anyway. But I know that’s not the case for many teachers. Growing up, many people have fond memories reading his books and watching movie adaptations. I’m not saying throw all his books away…that’s a personal choice and everyone needs to do what feels right for them. But for me,
If you’d like to learn more about the controversy surround him, here are some resources!
This quote really resonated with me!
“We should not judge Theodor Geisel by today’s standards,” Neely cautions, “but we must evaluate his books that we decide to share with children using today’s standards. We cannot wallow in our own nostalgia when we make choices for the books we share with young children. There are simply too many outstanding books available.” -Ann Neely
When we think about Read Across America week, it’s a week to celebrate the BEST of children’s literature! We need to put the very best examples in front of our students…authors who promote equality and kindness and authors who LOOK LIKE THEM! Books that showcase diversity, growth mindset, self-control, and empathy!
With all that said, here are some free activities you can use this week!
This sweet and simple craft focuses on favorite authors! The pencil is a flipbook, and behind the cover students can write all about their favorite authors! Before you complete this activity, I recommend setting out groups of books by authors your students are familiar with! In my classroom, they KNEW Mo Willems, Peter Brown, and Bob Shea but I had to be very intentional about pointing out other author collections!
Some authors you might choose to focus on:
At the beginning of the year, we spend a lot of time talking about our lives as readers! What we like to read, where we like to read, etc! But through the year, we move on to specific strategies and forget to talk about what it means to enjoy reading! Read Across America is the perfect time to have these discussions! Not only will your students enjoy sharing their thoughts, you can learn new things about them and their preferences!
It’s easy to get in a rut and share the same books year after year. Our students do the same thing! They need encouragement to branch out and find new authors and genres! Bingo boards are an engaging way to make sure we are diversifying our classroom read-alouds! You could use these as a whole class or give them to readers independently. I think in primary grades, whole class would be more effective! Some really strong readers might love to complete one on their own! Read Across America should truly be that…reading ACROSS America! America is not made up of white men…so our classroom libraries shouldn’t be made of white male authors either! The characters in our stories should look like our students and cover topics that are relevant to them!
Finally, here are a few writing activities you could have your students do!
Writing a letter to their favorite book character allows students to think deeply about their character.
What would they like to talk about? What questions would you ask them?
Sometimes our students can’t find the perfect book…maybe they want to read a book about their favorite athlete or have an idea for a problem they want a character to solve! Allow your students to use their imagination and dream of the perfect book!
To make sure Read Across America is a fun, stress-free week for you, you can get all the downloads here! I also included some bulletin board letters as well as some book covers for students to complete!