Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Windows and Mirrors

A few weeks ago, I picked my son up from a friend’s house. He hopped in the car and started talking about how great Career Day was. It wasn’t a fireman or a computer programmer he was enthusiastic about, it was an author. Yes, I have to admit I was a little surprised. He went on to tell me about an author who came to his classroom to speak about the need for diverse books. I could hear the excitement in his voice. He’s a teenage brown-skinned boy of Chinese-Mexican ethnicity and an avid reader. He told me how important it is for him to see kids who look like him in the books he reads. As a librarian I was thrilled about his excitement. As a mom I was sad that this is still a topic of discussion. Shouldn’t diverse books already exist in abundance?

Author Ellen Oh
Ellen Oh speaking at MCPL symposium on
Diversity in Children's Literature 
The author he met was Ellen Oh, YA author and president of We Need Diverse Books. Ellen Oh, when speaking on this need, uses the term “Windows and Mirrors.” It’s not a new phrase, but one that’s been around for almost 30 years. It is attributed to an article written in the 1990 by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop titled “Mirrors and Windows and Sliding Glass Doors.” And while things have improved, there is still a long way to go. We Need Diverse Books is an organization that advocates for more diversity in publishing for youth by providing mentorships, grants, and awards as well as creating awareness.

Books that provide windows show us outside our world, they allow us to learn about other cultures, people, and places. Books that are mirrors are just as important, they help us to relate and to self-identify. When children only read books that are windows, they are unable to see themselves and they are unable to cheer for characters they identify with. Books need to be windows and mirrors to show an accurate account of our world and a view of those around us.

Book cover for Last Stop on Market Street
One of the brightest features of Montgomery County is the people who live here and the fabulous diversity that exists. MCPL is doing its part to provide books that reflect the communities it serves. Our selectors are always on the lookout for new and exciting books that our customers will not only enjoy, but that will provide windows AND mirrors. Our updated booklists by grade and age reflect MCPL's commitment to diversity. Some of my personal favorite books are Better Nate then Ever by Tim Federle, Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de La Pena, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, and Burn, Baby, Burn by Meg Medina. Explore our online catalog on our website or ask a librarian at your local library what they recommend.

Listening to my son, and hearing how this author spoke to him and his needs, it really hit home how important this is for young people. Check out your local public library, let’s give our youth the books they want and deserve!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent information! I will pass this on to our local library system here in Hayward, CA.