Windows and Mirrors:: Why Diverse Children’s Literature is so Important

As I brainstormed ideas for what to share with you, my fellow in-the-trenches moms, an idea popped into my head. It was more like a potential title, really: 3 Things I’ve Learned in Our First Weeks of Homeschooling. So I went with it. And there I sat, staring at the white screen. I finally wrote the only thing I knew for sure, and it was this:

I don’t know anything.

I decided that wasn’t the article I should write. Call it a hunch.

So I thought more about my summer and our current homeschool adventure.

Windows and Mirrors:: Why Diverse Children's Literature is so Important

And this is the thing that is at the forefront of my mind and heart right now.

In children’s literature, this concept is discussed frequently in terms of mirrors and windows. Children excel when they have been given opportunities to see themselves reflected in literature and history {mirrors} AND when they have opportunities to look out and see something from a different perspective {windows}. This translates to education, too. If your children are only ever looking in mirrors, will they really gain a healthy understanding of the world around them? Or, if our children are always being pushed to look through windows, never seeing themselves in the stories they read, will they ever really connect and see the relevance of what they are supposedly being taught?

Windows and Mirrors:: Why Diverse Children's Literature is so Important

This is where the benefits of diverse literature begin. They provide those mirrors and windows for our children. We can teach our children to seek truth and be global citizens when we provide diverse books and varied perspectives for them to read.

As we attempt a year of homeschooling this year, I am excited to provide additional resources for my children to learn and grow as they study. My fifth-grade son is learning about American History and I am so excited for us to dive into the book Black Heroes of the American Revolution. We are supplementing standard homeschool textbooks with books like A Young People’s History of the United States and A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America. My sixth-grade twins are learning about world cultures this year and I am so excited for them to read books like A Long Walk to WaterWhen Stars Are Scattered, and The Night Diary.

My second grader will read The Magnificent Mya Tibbs and Count Me In–two phenomenal diverse children’s books by local authors I love!

Diversifying our children’s literature helps our kids begin to grasp the concept that there is more than one way to see the world. Students’ educational diets are not balanced if they see themselves in the mirror all the time. 

Windows and Mirrors:: Why Diverse Children's Literature is so Important

A couple years ago as we were in the early stages of planning the Houston Moms Blog Book Club, I reached out to my fellow contributors and asked for their book suggestions. I compiled a list and shared it with the group. Fortunately for me, a dear contributor friend pointed out that there was no diversity on the list. I kicked myself for not paying attention to that! For years I had gone out of my way to seek out diverse children’s books, particularly picture books {which are becoming increasingly easier to find, Hallelujah!}, and I felt like the biggest jerk for not paying any attention to this list of potential book club books. I reached out to this friend and thanked her and apologized profusely for my oversight.

It was the reminder I needed to always be on the lookout for a variety of literature from a variety of viewpoints. No, it’s not bad to read a book by a white author. My kids will read Judy Blume and E.B. White, Mark Twain and Astrid Lindgren this year. But they will also read Jewell Parker Rhodes and Kadir Nelson, Varsha Bajaj and Crystal Allen. And they will come to see that every person is gloriously unique, every story is valid and valuable, and I hope they will come to experience the infamous lines from T. S. Eliot:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”


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One Response to Windows and Mirrors:: Why Diverse Children’s Literature is so Important

  1. Avatar
    Carol A King October 16, 2020 at 6:51 pm #

    I have learned so much from reading books that were suggested to me in book clubs over the years. Books I probably wouldn’t have even considered on my own. I have gained new understanding of others by seeing their lives unfold in the chapters of a book. What a great opportunity to offer to children!

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