The flaws with Read Across America Day


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Kellsie M. Kennedy

If you attended public school, you already know what Read Across America day is. In honor of Dr. Suess’s birthday, elementary students complete reading activities typically related to Dr. Suess books.

My school had cupcakes with one birthday candle smashed into the green icing served as part of lunch. At first glance, this may seem like a great way to influence kids to read more, but I do not think it is actually producing the intended results.

Do not get me wrong, I loved Read Across America Day when I was a kid, but I also already enjoyed reading. I remember other students being bored and not enjoying the emphasis on reading. Schools now incorporate a spirit week into the holiday (i.e. having a spirit week theme to plan with a friend to wear identical outfits for Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat).

This gets kids excited to dress up for school, but the spirit week discourages a concentration on reading. Rather than getting kids excited to read, the holiday is getting them too excited to sit down and pay attention to a story.

Whether or not Read Across America Day is beneficial to young students, it should not be used in conjunction with celebrating Dr. Suess’s birthday. Dr. Suess is yet another overhyped, white, male writer that public education pushes on students. This trend of only teaching one perspective starts young and leads many to believe that minority groups were not writing until recently, even though this is far from true. There are other authors who are writing children’s stories, many who eloquently discuss social issues that are important to start discussing at a young age.

Aslan Tudor was one of the many children who visited the Standing Rock Reservation in protest of the pipeline. As an elementary student, he worked with his mother to write a children’s book about his experience called Young Water Protectors. Celebrate that. Celebrate the stories which work to help begin to expose children to a more inclusive mindset. Racism is taught, and it starts young in America. The problem will not and cannot be solved by continuously reading any author who was overtly racist.

Read Across America Day is a great idea that should be changed rather than tossed out altogether. Let’s get kids excited about reading, but also not be afraid to look at why some students are not normally interested. And celebrate authors, but celebrate the variety of voices and not just one.