The Discontinuing of Dr. Seuss Stories: The Event, Reasoning, and Impact

We all remember the beloved stories we read by Dr. Seuss during our childhood. From The Cat in the Hat to Green Eggs and Ham, we all have our own memorable favorites we recall from when we were growing up. Just this week, however, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has come out with their decision to stop publishing some of the late author’s works based on racist and insensitive imagery. The news may be shocking initially, as Dr. Seuss is widely considered a beloved children’s author, so it is important to look at the issue in detail.

What Books and Why?

Six books are being shelved: If I Ran the Zoo, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, McElligot’s Pool, and The Cat’s Quizzer. As stated, racist imagery was the primary reason for those books being discontinued. These involved stereotypes about Africans, East Asians, Middle Easterners, and people from the Inuit tribe. This may seem like an issue of little importance, as some may view these as simple illustrations made for children. It’s understandable for our first reactions to be confused or even upset, as we all grew up with stories like these. However, it is important that we look at the issue in a calmer, more in-depth way in order to understand the reasoning for why these books have stopped being published.

Promotion of Positive Messages

According to their website, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has a mission of supporting children and families through promoting hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship. As a company that produces books for children, this is essential, as these messages are some of the most important ones for young children who are learning to interact with others around them. Regarding the stories removed, they stated that they portray certain groups of people in ways that are “hurtful and wrong,” implying that they are not consistent with the messages they hope to promote and should be removed to represent their enterprise more effectively.

Representation and Impact

Beyond the statements of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, there are other factors we should consider when looking at this issue. Firstly, the representation of different races and cultures is vital in children’s stories, despite not always being acknowledged. The fact is, children are very quick to pick up on their surroundings, and this extends to the books they read and the television shows they watch. When shown negative portrayals of individuals in certain ethnic or cultural groups, it most definitely makes a difference in their perspectives.

More specifically, these portrayals can be harmful to children who are members of these racial or ethnic groups. Research has shown that children’s ethnic identity takes its shape between ages three and five. Children in ethnic minority groups commonly experience a sense of conflict regarding their racial identities. Furthermore, studies have shown that stereotypical portrayal of race or ethnicity is often linked with negative reactions for those in those groups, including self-consciousness and lowered social self-esteem. In regards to children, they are especially vulnerable, as they are still developing their own ideas about themselves and the world around them.

In addition, negative racial representation can also affect children’s attitudes and prejudices towards those groups. According to research, children are able to recognize race by the age of two, and they typically exhibit the effects of social influences and bias by the age of three. The years between three and seven in children are crucial to their understanding of race and their racial attitudes, as this is when they understand what is associated with race-related labels and develop their emotional responses.

With the level of vulnerability that children’s minds are at in regards to racial identity and attitude, the matter of portraying racial groups harmfully is most certainly an issue of importance. It may seem like a simple illustration that won’t truly impact anyone, but the build-up of seemingly minor elements is what builds up and creates lasting results. At the end of the day, racism is not born, but taught. Though Dr. Seuss stories may have been a beloved memory we had growing up, we have to keep the issue in perspective and consider all factors involved. The discontinuing of six books may seem useless in the broad issue that is racism in America, but everything, even small changes, can make a difference.