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The claim: Virginia schools removed Dr. Seuss books from their libraries
Read Across America Day looked a little different this year as many students learned virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But the National Education Association has planned a variety of virtual events – not just in March but all year – to mark the occasion.
That's not the only difference: The NEA has pivoted from popular children's author Dr. Seuss to a focus on diverse children's books, a decision that generated controversy on social media.
"Dr Suess (sic) is being taken out of Virginia schools now. Apparently, he’s a racist. Who knew. I blame it on that blue fish. I mean....Just look at him all smug. Total racist. Good call Virgina! Huzzah!" claimed a March 1 Facebook post.
Other social media posts claim Virginia schools "canceled" Dr. Seuss but do not directly say the books have been removed from schools.
While some Virginia schools along with other schools across the country are shifting their celebration focus from Dr. Seuss' works, they are not taking his books out of the schools.
USA TODAY contacted several Facebook users who posted the claim for comment.
Virginia says it is keeping Dr. Seuss books
In the days leading up to Read Across America Day, false reports surfaced that Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia had banned the books of Dr. Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel.
The school district quickly released a statement to clarify, writing that given the district's "focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction," it released guidance to schools "during the past couple of years" to not connect Read Across America Day exclusively with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. His books, however, are still available to readers in district libraries.
Read Across America has had the same guidance since 2017.
In a statement published in the Washington Post, Loudoun schools spokesperson Wayde B. Byard said, "We want to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive and diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day. That being said, Dr. Seuss books have not been banned; they are still available to students in our libraries and classrooms."
USA TODAY could find no reporting of other Virginia schools removing Dr. Seuss books from their libraries.
What is Read Across America Day?
Launched in 1998 by the NEA, Read Across America Day was created as a way to encourage children to read. It later developed into a year-round program, with special celebrations in March.
Since its conception, the annual reading day has been held on or near March 2, which is Dr. Seuss's birthday. This year, it was held on his 117th birthday. And for many Americans, Read Across America Day is celebrated alongside his birthday.
Over the past few years, however, the day's focus has shifted from the author because of new attention toward inclusivity in children's literature and a confrontation with racist undertones in Seuss's body of work.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author's legacy, announced on March 2 that it would stop printing six books because of racist and insensitive imagery.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim that Virginia schools removed Dr. Seuss's books FALSE because it is not supported by our research. Loudoun County Public Schools confirmed it is shifting its Read Across America Day celebrations from Dr. Seuss but has not removed his books from its schools.
Our fact-check sources:
burbio, accessed March 2, "Burbio's K-12 School Opening Tracker"
NEA, Read Across America, accessed March 2, "CREATE & CELEBRATE a nation of diverse readers"
Loudoun County Public Schools, Feb. 27, "MEDIA RUMORS CONCERNING LCPS AND DR. SEUSS"
The Washington Post, Feb. 27, "No, a Virginia school district didn’t ban Dr. Seuss books. Here’s what really happened."
NEA, Read Across America, accessed March 2, "Read Across America: Frequently Asked Questions"
USA TODAY, Mar. 2, "6 Dr. Seuss books will stop being published due to racist, insensitive imagery"
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No evidence Virginia schools are banning Dr. Seuss books