When I think of how we might diminish the world of a child by not having books that represent their SELVES and their world, when I think of how we diminish the OTHER when we reject their place in literature or in the community, when I think of how we diminish the voices of those strong, courageous people, I am saddened. Readers need MIRRORS says Rudine Sims Bishop. They need to see themselves reflected in the pages of a book. Their reality needs to be the reality of the story. Kids also need WINDOWS to see the larger world around them. I grew up in the city. I knew nothing of farm life, suburbs, expanses of lawns, or anything other than the row house neighborhoods of my youth. Books allowed me to see those other places as well as other times, other states, and more. And they can do the same today to the child sitting in an apartment in San Angelo, Texas, or sitting in a coffee shop on a street in Brooklyn or sitting at a table doing homework before it is time to go out and do the afternoon chores.
I also think kids need DOORS, books that offer them a sense of how to be powerful change agents. They need to know the stories of Ruby Bridges and Claudette Colvin. They need to see how children, tweens, and teens make a difference in the world around them. They need to read GEORGE and LILY AND DUNKIN and learn how to celebrate each person for who that person is and wants to be. Books can be powerful windows and mirrors and doors. In a time when government seeks to restrict, books can EXPAND. As educators, we need to make sure we are providing books that are windows and doors and mirrors, stories that can expand the world of our readers, books that make anything seem possible, tales that provide comfort and solace. We need to be King of the Forest when it comes to putting books in the hands of children. As the Lion sings in "The Wiz,"
If on courage
You must call
Then just keep on tryin'
You're a lion
In your own way
Be a lion
Here's to all the library lions!