You are probably thinking surely we've made progress since then -- look at the Emmys - Viola Davis won an Emmy Sunday night! Well...let me tell you - progress has been kind of slow in the publishing world just as in Hollywood. In 2014, out of the 3500 books received at Cooperative Children's Book Center (approx. 5,000 books were published) 84 were by African/African-Americans and 180 were about African/African-Americans. The numbers of books published for the other minority groups are even more dismal.
How can we expect teachers and parents to provide the "mirror" and "window" experience for their children when so few are published and even harder to find?
LOOK THROUGH THE MIRROR
All children should have a literary experience that provides them with a "mirror" to see themselves and their families. All children should have a literary experience that provides them with a "window" to view others.
I first heard about Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop and the phrase "mirrors and windows" that she promotes in a session at my first National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) Conference in 2006. In this same session I sat mesmerized as the presenters shared the most amazing and fabulous books by African-American authors/illustrators. ( I now make it a point to attend this popular session every year at the conference for info about the latest books published by/about African-Americans.
That first session at NBCDI Conference truly changed me! I vowed from that day forward I would share the "mirrors and windows" concept with colleagues, family, friends, and whoever would listen! I BECAME AN ADVOCATE AND CONSUMER OF DIVERSE BOOKS.
When I share this concept and the wonderful diverse books out there with teachers -- most of them "get it" once they make a conscious effort to share diverse books with the children in their classrooms.
An example, a second grade teacher after attending one of my presentations and then sharing a diverse book with her class, came to my office shouting, "I get it, I get it!" Her joy at seeing her students beam as she read aloud a book that had characters that looked like them, had the same experiences, and even sounded like some of them was heart-warming. She shared the comments made throughout the reading of the story by her African-American and Latino boys in the class. I'll never forget her enthusiasm (with tears in her eyes) or the title of her magical "turning-point" book - Dear Primo. This teacher continues to seek out books that provide both a "mirror and window" for all her students and shares with her colleagues. She loves teaching, loves the children, and loves books! (Thank you Mrs. Logan).
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
While the spirit of celebrating Hispanic Heritage month (Sept.15-Oct.15) is upon us, let's all pledge to do our part in promoting and sharing diverse books with our children regularly. Begin by taking a look at your bookshelf - are you providing a "mirror" and "window" experience for your child? "Do the books on the shelf validate the existence of your child?" "Do the books on the shelf provide a way for your child to learn about different people and experiences?"
Join me in creating a better world one book at a time!
See you next Wednesday! :)