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01 May 2014 @ 03:47 pm
Mirrors and Windows  
Kate Messner wrote a lovely piece about not just the need for diversity in books for children but also about concrete steps we could take to create more diversity. Read her piece at her blog: http://www.katemessner.com/more-than-words-a-challenge-for-everyone-whos-been-asking-for-more-diversity-in-kids-books/. Actions do speak louder than words. Kate's advice to speak with our wallets is a great one. And I want to second her enthusiasm for Varian Johnson's THE GREAT GREENE HEIST (and for Varian Johnson's SAVING MADDIE). I am halfway through the book and already want the sequel in hand (Johnson is working on it now).

Each semester, as I put together my reading lists for children's and YA lit classes, I am constantly keeping diversity in the forefront as I adjust the lists. I require reading from the Coretta Scott King and Belpre lists for children's lit outside reading. If I could make the reading list even longer (and my students think I am already a taskmaster), I would include even more diversity in titles.

I grew up in that "all white world of children's books" that Nancy Larrick wrote about in 1965: http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1965sep11-00063. I read Nancy Drew and the Five Little Peppers. Characters of color were often portrayed as stereotypes. It was when the oldest former resident of the back bedroom referred to a book she was reading as a good "February" book that I realized we were still not doing enough. Kids need books that are mirrors, books in which they characters reflect the reality of the reader. They also need books that are windows, books that show them a wider world than the one they might live in right now.

We need to provide readers with mirrors and windows. The best way to do that is to bring those books into the classroom and share them with our students.
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