Good writing is like a windowpane. George Orwell
We often talk of books being mirrors, that kids need to find themselves in books. But book also need to be windows, portals that allow kids to see out into the larger world. So, a good collection of books has to serve both purposes. It needs to reflect the diversity of its users and it also need to open up the walls of the building and how kids there is more "in heaven and in earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy," to quote the Bard.
And that brings us to diversity, something I have written about here before. But as this semester gets underway and I think of the booktalks I have recorded for my classes on the required children's and YA books assigned them, I want to underscore that, for me at least, diversity is not just racial or ethnic. Diversity includes all manner of aspects of what makes us human, what contributes to our culture. REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM was something that appeared diverse in my early reading life. I grew up in a big city and had never been to the country, to a farm, to a rural area, not even to the suburbs. Of course, ROSF was not entirely accurate about living outside the big city, but it did make me curious enough to look for other books to fill in the gap. I grew up relatively poor in a single parent home with 3 younger sisters. So, naturally, I loved NANCY DREW who had money, no siblings, an absent mother and her own car. I attended Catholic school and loved reading about those lucky kids who attended publish school instead.
So, diversity might include religion, education, SES, family structure (there were ZERO books about single parent families when I was growing up), position within family (oldest, youngest, middle child), gender, neighborhood, and so much more. When I select books for my lit classes, then, I am always thinking of ways to reflect diversity in multiple ways. So, in addition to books about race and ethnicity, I include DEAR MR. HENSAW, one of the earliest books with a single parent head of household (and it is also a Newbery and an epistolary novel). OUT OF MY MIND has come onto the list as it deals with a handicapped child. DOODLEBUG has a character who is ADD; RULES discusses the reactions of the sister of an autistic brother. THE UNDERNEATH is set in a different place as is THE GRAVEYARD BOOK and ROSA. There is diversity also in forms and formats and genres. It is a balancing act of sorts; I want to be sure my reading list covers as wide a range as possible. Students will read selections from Caldecott, Belpre, King, Sibert, and Geisel. I hope their reading hits all the high notes. I hope they will see the diversity and make sure their libraries are windows and mirrors, too.
BTW, I am happy to address questions here. So, if you have a burning question, I am always happy to offer opinions. Holler at me and let me know. And now, back to my #bookaday reading.