On the birthday of famed children’s author Dr. Seuss, the publishing company that preserves his legacy announced they will no longer publish six books that depict non-white characters in racist ways.
Lakeisha Johnson, an assistant professor in the Florida State University School of Communication Science and Disorders and an affiliate faculty at the Florida Center for Reading Research, is available to discuss the legacy of Dr. Seuss and the importance of accurate representation in children’s literature.
In addition to her research on literacy development in underserved populations, Johnson is the author of Maya’s Book Nook, a website that promotes language and literacy development through diverse children’s literature.
“Extensive research has been completed on the racist stereotypes present in several of Dr. Seuess’ books and political cartoons he drew from the 1920s-1940s,” Johnson said. “Because of this, the National Education Association decided to rebrand and move away from Seuss being the face of Read Across America day in 2017. Now the focus is on celebrating a nation of diverse readers, which is such a great shift.”
Johnson added: “Representation matters. Children need to see people who look like them, whether it’s the same skin color, hair type, culture, religion, ability level, race, or ethnicity. Seeing yourself reflected in others can help to promote pride and self-esteem. It helps a child to feel visible, to know that they matter, and to dream of all the things they can accomplish. All children should be able to see themselves in what they read, as well as be introduced to stories that feature characters who differ from them. For educators and practitioners, I strongly believe our classroom bookshelves should reflect the students who sit in the seats.”
Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.