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Opinion Who decides what we read?

Books by Dr. Seuss in a bookstore in Brooklyn on March 2.
Books by Dr. Seuss in a bookstore in Brooklyn on March 2. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)
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Matt Bai’s March 5 Friday Opinion column, “Oh, the books you’d ban!,” setting out a rhyming Dr. Seuss-like argument for why all the author’s books should remain available, was clever. But the rhyme can’t hide the two points I believe he got wrong. First, the books aren’t banned. A ban implies that a government or school authority made a decision to keep them from the public. In this case, Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to withdraw six of Seuss’s many books. 

Second, Mr. Bai’s argument that we read and admire works by bigoted authors we wouldn’t invite to dinner might be true. The thing is, we make that decision as adults. In contrast, Dr. Seuss’s books provide children with some of their first permanent impressions through vibrant illustrations. It’s not unreasonable to expect that they will absorb some impact from images of stereotyped characters, especially when they’re contrasted with the more “normal,” European-appearing ones.

We can, of course, make these decisions for ourselves. Still, I imagine most parents appreciate having fewer pitfalls to avoid in selecting their children’s books.

Tom Natan, Washington

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