I was really excited to brainstorm ideas for my first Read Across America Week when I first learned that I would be working in an elementary school library. I sort of went nuts on Pinterest pinning all sorts of blue, red, and white decorations, crafts, STEM activities, and art. I was on a high! But surviving Seuss has been an entirely different experience than what I expected.
I created all sorts of grandiose ideas in my head about transforming the library into Seuss-ville, but when the time came, I'm afraid my results were less than Pin-worthy. I did the best I could with materials I already had on hand. I just didn't have the time or quite frankly the money to go and buy a ton of new decor. (I've already spend more than I care to confess of my personal money on decorations for the library.) I ended up with a small display rather than a Seuss-ville transformation.
I had also planned to do STEM-maker centers during the week of Seuss, but in a previous meeting with my principal, I was asked to suspend all makerspace activities until after state testing in April. So...I couldn't move forward with those plans. I decided to read the Seuss book of the day to the classes that were not working on the big genre project (grades 4 and 5 which you can read about HERE) and add in a little activity and book check out. And then it hit. The Seuss controversy.
Twitter, Facebook groups, and Instagram were filling up with posts, pictures, and blogs about how school librarians should boycott Dr. Seuss and choose books of more diversity and acceptance for Read Across America Week. I read the articles. I felt the compassion of the authors. I found myself questioning my own choices to celebrate the week as planned. BUT....that is a big "but" just in case you were wondering.....I knew that my school had been celebrating and loving Seuss week for years. And I've made some changes this year. These changes haven't been easy. I have had to justify my choices at various times. I just couldn't bring myself to "fight this battle" as they say. I felt it would be best to keep the Seuss activities as they were. This wasn't an easy choice. To be perfectly honest, I almost hesitated to post a picture of myself on Twitter wearing a Seuss shirt I ordered just because I was worried about how others might judge my choice to celebrate.
After a full week of reading Seuss books, talking with my students about how Theodore Geisel impacted the world of children's literature, and leading my very first Book Character Parade, I have come to some conclusions about my Seuss experiences.
Firsts aren't easy. It certainly has been hard transitioning to elementary after almost 20 years in a middle-high school setting. It certainly has been hard making changes to a very traditional library as I've tried to move it forward into a more modern, future-ready library. It certainly has been hard to advocate for more freedom in book selection and book labeling. The first year of anything is typically challenging.
Worrying about how others judge you is a waste of time. People will judge my decision to celebrate Seuss week. Some might decide it is the best decision I've made. Some might decide I should have taken a stand like many other librarians against literature that reflects the stereotypes of the generation in which it was written. Either way, I will be judged. But that doesn't really matter. It isn't about me. It's about the students and how I communicate with them about the books they read, the books we have in our library, and about how literature is an art form that allows for freedom of expression...even if that expression goes against what we may believe to be inherently wrong.
Seuss is still fun. The highlights of my week came in the form of giggles from 3rd graders as I messed up six times in reading the tongue twisters found in Fox in Socks. And they came in the form of precious kids smiling and waving as we paraded around our school dressed as our favorite book characters. And they came in the form of "thank you, you are the best librarian ever" as a sweet girl thanked me for hosting a Reading Celebration where she got silly Seuss glasses and enjoyed a free snow cone.
Dr. Seuss books often have wisdom in them that is issued by a fish. I'm not sure I would compare my thirteen-year-old to a fish, but he summed up my entire post in one sentence, "usually the most simple solution to a problem is the correct one." The simple solution was to celebrate Seuss. And we had a wonderful time.
Who to follow: