Books can serve as both windows and mirrors. All children should have access to both. We provide curated lists featuring diverse children from varying backgrounds and experiences.
In late August and early September, a group of us here at NPL published a series of blog posts dedicated to exploring the racist images and stereotypes present in specific examples of classic children's literature. Our efforts were part of a larger project wherein a diverse group of library employees had conversations how best to address the "potential hurt these books could cause" while honoring public libraries' central values regarding intellectual freedom and the right of everyone to read what they so choose.
In addtion to the blog posts published discussing Dr. Seuss, traditional picture book depictions of what is referred to as the "First" Thanksgiving, Little House on the Prairie, and the Asterix comic books, we also curated lists featuring diverse children in positive and appropriate ways. While certain readers may feel reluctant (or even deem it unecessary) to cast a more critical, nuanced eye to the books they previously cherished, it is important that we seek out new and more diverse books.
One can find our lists on the NPL website, under the Books, Movies, and Music section for children. Scroll down to the Diverse Books heading, which looks like this:
Click on the links to see lists highlighting picture books featuring children of diverse backgrounds and experiences.
According to Rudine Sims, books are "windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange.” These windows can also serve as sliding glass doors through which a reader can "walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author." In the right conditions, however, the window can become a mirror which reflects "our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience." Books, then, should not only help us experience new perspectives, but also serve as safe places where we can see ourselves as part of a greater whole.