The shelves and desks at Teaching for Change in Washington, D.C., are full of picture books. For years, the nonprofit, which advocates for a more inclusive curriculum in public schools, has been keeping track of what it considers to be some of the best — and worst — multicultural children’s books out there.

A Birthday Cake for Washington has been the subject of much criticism because it portrays slaves as being happy.
Image: Scholastic via NPR

Allyson Criner Brown, Teaching for Change’s associate director, says they keep the bad ones because “there’s so much to learn from them.”

A Birthday Cake for George Washington was just put on the bad shelf.

Over the weekend, the publisher Scholastic announced it would stop distributing the children’s picture book after public outcry.

Even though it was created by a multicultural team, the book came under heavy criticism for whitewashing the history of slavery. Just a few months ago, another children’s book, A Fine Dessert, drew similar criticism.

“It’s almost as if the book presents that because he had moments of happiness and because he took pride and joy in his work that outweighs the fact that he was enslaved,” Brown said. “And that cannot ever be a part of telling any story about somebody who was held in bondage.”

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