Early Literacy and NOT Teaching the 'Birthday Cake' Book

In response to Scholastic, Inc.'s recent removal of the title 'A Birthday Cake for George Washington,' some people lament a missed teachable moment. Here's some insight from an educator about why that's not-quite-right, how kid literacy works, and why publishers must #TellBetterStories.


  1. Educators and parents take early literacy very seriously for a number of reasons: It is the foundation of our educational system that future academic success is predicated upon. It is also a path toward incredible personal development, entertainment, and discovery!
  2. Educators around the United States spoke out about the problems with 'A Birthday Cake for George Washington,' (a lighthearted picture book about how a slave proudly bakes a cake for his owner), and why it should not be used as an educational tool. I started a petition for its removal, which was ultimately signed by thousands, and our demand was met by the publisher!
  3. Still, many wondered if we hadn't missed an opportunity to have conversations with students about slavery, facilitated around this story.
  4. While I agree that a skilled teacher could share this text and create a good lesson in certain circumstances, I disagree that that is likely to happen with the target audience for this book: young children ages 3 - 8. What's more, having this book in full production and circulation poses threats to children, which I outlined in a series of Tweets, after the news came in that the book would no longer be sold.