Back in 1990, Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor at The Ohio State University, wrote profoundly about books being both windows and mirrors. The metaphor is elegant and true, and it has been used ever since to help articulate why diversity in literature is so important.
Books can offer a glimpse into the life of someone different from ourselves. They can also reflect back to us our own image. Both functions are important. Through reading the stories of others, we broaden our world view and learn about lives so different from our own. Through seeing ourselves in stories, we find validation for our own experiences.
One of my jobs as the librarian is to make sure our students find both windows and mirrors in our collection. Happily, there are more and more resources now that help me do that. The major library journals are increasing the space they devote to diverse books and authors. Additionally, many online communities are dedicated to getting out the word about books that portray marginalized voices. For example, The Brown Bookshelf promotes black children’s book authors and illustrators; Latinx in Kids Lit promotes children’s books by, about, and for the Latinx community. A quick Google search on “children’s books” and whatever group you want will produce results about that specific sector. If you’re interested in a more general spectrum of diverse titles, #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ReadYourWorld are two great Twitter feeds to follow.
Here are a number of books we’ve recently purchased that I highly recommend: