Melania Trump has fired back at the librarian who rejected a collection of books from the first lady and called some of the titles “racist”.
A spokeswoman for Ms Trump labelled the librarian’s response “unfortunate” and said Ms Trump wanted “to help as many children as she can”.
“She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to children across the country is but one example,” said Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for the first lady's office, in a statement to Fox News.
Ms Grisham continued: “To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”
Earlier this month, Ms Trump sent out collections of 10 Dr Seuss books to one school in each state to celebrate “National Read a Book Day”.
The White House said it worked “with the Department of Education to identify schools with programmes that have achieved high standards of excellence.”
The selected school in Massachusetts was Cambridgeport Elementary School in Cambridge, which sits just outside of Boston and is home to two prestigious and world-renowned universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
In a blogpost, the school's librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro said her school did not need the books, which included famous titles such as The Cat in the Hat.
“I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to ‘excellence,’” Ms Soeiro wrote. “My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science.”
Instead, Ms Soeiro wrote, the White House should focus more on providing support to schools that are underfunded and “continue to be marginalised” by the policies of US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Ms Soeiro also took issue with the books themselves.
“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” Ms Soeiro wrote, giving the examples of If I Ran a Zoo as well as And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.
The librarian attached a list of 10 other books she hoped would “offer a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of [Donald Trump's] administration.”
Even though Ms Soeiro was upset by Ms Trump’s donation, former first lady Michelle Obama read Dr Seuss books to children several times during her husband Barack Obama's administration, without controversy.
According to CBS Boston, Cambridge Public Schools said in a statement that Ms Soeiro “was not authorised to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district” and counselled her on a policy against using public resources for political purposes.