Think of your favorite childhood story or the stories you always went back to because you saw yourself represented on those pages.
If you are white, you probably had plenty of books to choose from where you could see yourself in a story. These books are referred to as "mirror books." A child is able to see themselves or somebody who resembles them in a story or in a character. There were not many multicultural, diverse, "mirror" books for children 50 years ago.
A "mirror" is a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity and self-esteem. A "window book" is a story that gives you a new view into someone else’s culture or experience. It is critical for kids to have both. Because, to understand their place in this world, kids need some perspective on other people too.
I learned about the lack of diversity in children's literature at Wheelock College in 1992.
I took a class called "Diversity in Literature." In this wonderful class, I learned about a special bear. Corduroy was an example of a "mirror book" for young African American girls. Corduroy, by Don Freeman, was one of the few stories where a young black girl was the main character.
Why is this important?
Books help us connect and learn about our world.
We can step outside our lives and look inward or outward. We can assess, examine, and ask questions. We can consider the fact that although a child may have a different skin color, we have so much more in common.
Books inspire children. Children need to connect on a personal level with the story, characters, and message.
I didn't read Corduroy as a child, I should have. But, it became one of my favorite books as a teacher. These books and many others, have inspired me to include diversity of characters in the books I write.
Sometimes, one powerful book can make all the difference in a child's life. Especially, if they can see themselves in the story.
If you're struggling with how to open up about these challenging subjects or clarify confusing times with your little ones, books are a great way to tackle the tough topics and expose children to different narratives. Being mindful of these times, I have put together a list of my favorite stories. These books are for all ages and not only discuss race, but also celebrate diversity. The list below are mirror books for some and window books for others.
Maybe it is time for us to include both types of books with our kids.
To help our kids learn and tackle these tough topics, to start these tough conversations, we can start with a book.
My Favorite Top 10 Books About Diversity
By Ezra Jack Keats
In this classic story, a young boy wakes up to discover snow has fallen. He steps outside to fully experience the first snowfall of winter, and as he plays in the city snow. He enjoys the snow and loves this new winter world.
By Don Freeman
This book tells the story of a lovely bear named Corduroy, displayed on a toy shelf in a department store. One day, a young girl named Lisa arrives at the store with her mother and she loves the bear. She is eager to buy him, but her mother refuses and notices a button is missing from his overalls. A classic story with more adventures to follow.
By Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
This is an absolutely beautiful book that reminds us that we are all human beings. Sometimes, as humans, we all make mistakes. But, we can try to improve ourselves through making better choices, mindfulness, and being kind.
By Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
This is a lovely poem about finding yourself. Kids learn how to treat others with kindness and respect. If you are hoping to teach your children about self-worth, self-love, and self-esteem, this lyrical book is just right.
By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn
This is a quiet story about a young Muslim girl who plays dress-up in her mother’s beautiful headscarf. It is an important "mirror book" for Muslim kids and an essential "window book" for others.Mommy’s Khimar is welcoming, loving, kind, and authentic.
This beautifully illustrated, fun-filled story is a true gem. At a busy street market, kids eating ice cream exclaim, "Yum!" in English, "Geshmak!" in Yiddish, and "Nam-nam!" in Danish. But disaster strikes when a little dog overturns a spice cart. Laughing brings all of the characters together. Energetic art and a lift-the-flap feature make exploring languages fun.
by Linda Sue Park
A charming peek-a-boo book from Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park, little ones can imitate animal sounds in 19 different languages. What kind noises do animals make around the world. Make a guess, then lift the flap, have some fun!
By Andrea Beaty and Illustrated by David Roberts
Curious Ada has a head full of questions and thoughts that swirl all day long! When she is tinkering at home one day, she sniffs something terrible. Ada wonders, What is that terrible smell? She tries to the bottom of the problem by using science. One of many wonderful books by this author.
By Brenda J. Child, Jonathan Thunder
Windy Girl is blessed with a great imagination. She gathers stories from her Uncle of long-ago traditions and dances. She shares her own story about her dog, and how he dances. Tradition, storytelling, and kindness are the themes in this lovely story.
By Arree Chung
“The reds, the yellows, and the blues all think they're the best in this vibrant, thought-provoking picture book from Arree Chung, with a message of acceptance and unity.”
All special in their own ways, the colors live in harmony―until one day, there is a dispute. New colors join in the mix and this book helps kids learn about embracing differences and finding the things we have in common.