Here is one way you can take a small, but powerful action in your own home that will have a direct and positive impact on your kids. Build a diverse library of books for your child with intention and joy! Here is an excerpt from an article that explains how children’s books are about more than learning to read. They serve as ‘mirrors and windows’ for your child’s view of themselves and the world around them.
The phrase “mirrors and windows” was initially introduced by Emily Style for the National SEED Project. A mirror is a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity. A window is a resource that offers you a view into someone else’s experience. It is critical to understand that students cannot truly learn about themselves unless they learn about others as well. Here is a link to the full article on We Are Teachers.
Below, I’ve included a checklist I’ve used at the Greensboro Children’s Museum as well as with the books I choose for my own kids. The goal is to take a look at the books you already have and figure out whose voices are missing.
But first, make space. Grab a box for donations and put in any books in it that your child has outgrown.
With the books you have remaining, find some space to sort your collection. Some books you own might fit into multiple categories. You’ll want to count them in each category as well as keep a tally of how many total books you have.
Do you have any books that…
- have Native Americans as primary characters and are written by a Native author?
- focus on the culture, history, or traditions of people who first lived on the land where you now live? (try this incredible map https://native-land.ca/ )
- are bilingual with the primary language spoken in your household and another language that is common in your community?
- have a character who identifies as lgbtq and is written by an lgbtq author?
- have a child protagonist who is not white?
- celebrate a religious or cultural tradition different from your own?
- normalizes families that look different from your child’s?
- includes depictions of characters who have difficult experiences that your family has not experienced in a realistic and non-derogatory manner? Examples might be: death of a family member or friend, divorce, economic hardship, incarceration, moving to a different country, bullying
- are non-fiction texts featuring heroes, scientists, leaders, or other role models who are not white?
- are non-fiction texts featuring heroes, scientists, leaders, or other role models who are girls or women?
- remove boundaries regarding gender expression or contradict stereotypes for depicting gendered behaviors or roles?
- celebrate neurodiverse traits in its characters?
- include characters who are differently abled?
We recognize this list is not complete. Be sure to add lines where you see gaps. Also, please take a moment to tag us in a comment or shoot us a message on social media with areas we missed!
How many books do you have total that fit into at least one of these categories? Take that number and divide it by the total number of books in your child’s library? How do you feel about that percentage?
Mirror books are fantastic for building identity and confidence. They may help your child feel more empowered about an issue they are experiencing or find joy or adventure in a new experience. Window books help kids build empathy and sometimes spark curiosity. Before you read a book outside your own comfort zone, be ready to answer questions your child might answer honestly. Remember that it is okay to say, “I don’t know, but we can look it up.”
Ready to find title recommendations? Check out these resources:
The Brown Bookshelf
We Need Diverse Books
Reading While White
Colors of Us
Teaching for Change