I love books. As a kid, I used to get in trouble for hiding books in my bathroom cabinet and reading them when I was supposed to be taking a shower. (Sorry mom!)
When I taught elementary school, teaching reading was my favorite part of the day. I took the responsibility of selecting books for my students very seriously.
One principle that I always tried to stick to was this: we need books that function as both mirrors and windows. In other words, we should be able to see ourselves in books, with characters who look, feel, and act like us (mirrors). We also need to select and read books that are windows; that give a glimpse into someone else’s reality and show what their world is like (windows).
As a white mother with white children, I am deliberate about choosing books for my girls that have characters that do not look like them. I want their bookshelves to look like the world we live in! In light of today being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I wanted to share four “window” books with you that we love.
(p.s. click on the cover of the book to go directly to that item on Amazon!)
When God Made You
Charlee and Evie love the bright illustrations in this rhyming book. I love how it focuses on how well God knows us and that He created us on purpose. Don’t you just love this line? “Cause when God made you, somehow God knew that the world needed someone exactly like you.” Truths that our kids need to hear and an opportunity for us to talk about how differently God created each person in the world.
The Snowy Day
Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day was always a favorite with my first graders. They loved watching Peter’s adventures in the snow, and imagining what it would be like if they were there, too! This book opens up conversations about people who look different than us, and the things that are the same about all of us.
I remember reading this book growing up! Grace is a spunky little girl who loves stories, and loves acting out the most exciting, adventurous parts. When her class puts on a Peter Pan performance, she knows just who she wants to be. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. Beautiful watercolor illustrations accompany Grace’s adventures. This is a great chance to talk to our girls about being who they want to be!
The Other Side
This book was another favorite of my classes. Clover’s mom tells her not to cross the fence that divides their town in two, but when she meets Anna, on the other side of the fence, the girls quickly strike up a friendship. Kids have an innate sense of justice and are often outraged when they hear of prejudice and racism. Books like The Other Side give you a chance to talk to them about issues like segregation and what that can look like in our modern context.
This book may not have diverse characters like the others, but it teaches kids important lessons about teasing, self-esteem and acceptance, especially in the school setting. Kids will relate to how alone Chrysanthemum feels and her hope that every day might get better. A sweet ending reassures kids and opens up conversations about how we should treat others who are different than us.
What about you? How diverse are your kids’ bookshelves? Share recommendations below!
(p.s. These are Amazon affiliate links. That just means that we receive a few pennies if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you! Thanks for supporting In This Family!)