*Melania Trump came to a Massachusetts elementary school Thursday bearing a gift in celebration of “National Read a Book Day.”
The first lady brought along her favorite Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” which she she read to her son, Barron, “over and over” when he was younger.
But a librarian at Cambridgeport School refused to accept the gift, in protest of the Trump administration’s education policies and some questionable images in Dr. Seuss books.
Seuss’ illustrations are “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro wrote in a letter to Trump on Tuesday.
The librarian wrote that rather than sending books to a well-funded elementary school in Cambridge, Trump should instead be devoting resources to schools in “underfunded and underprivileged communities” that are “marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.”
DeVos is a billionaire who has worked for decades to promote alternatives to traditional public schools. Critics have labeled her as one of the most anti-public-education secretaries in the department’s history.
The Department of Education chose one high-achieving school in every state to receive a package of books from Trump, according to a statement from the White House. Giving the books was part of Melania’s effort to use her platform “to help as many children as she can,” according to White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
“Turning the gesture of sending young school children books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere,” Grisham said.
The Cambridge school system released a statement saying the librarian “was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district,” according to CBS Boston.
“We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes,” the district said in the statement.
Phipps Soeiro points to recent literature that addresses potential racism in Seuss’ work, including a book by professor of children’s literature Philip Nel that argues Seuss’ depiction of the Cat in the Hat was based on racial stereotypes and inspired by traditions of blackface entertainment.
She also calls Seuss “a bit of a cliché” and a “tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature” in her letter posted on the Horn Book, a publication covering literature for children and adults.