Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors

Books are an invitation for children to see themselves in imaginative stories, and an opportunity for them to look into the lives of others who are different from them. At Book Harvest, we are devoted to ensuring that every child has access to books that reflect their own lived experiences and that provide an authentic portrayal of children whose backgrounds, abilities, and circumstances may be unfamiliar. In this way, children can develop an appreciation for the universe of human experience from their earliest years.

We call this approach "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors."

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The Opportunity

Book Harvest promotes and shares books that portray all children, honoring diverse backgrounds, languages, abilities, and perspectives, and including stories by and about people of color. We believe that books should serve as mirrors and windows for all children: in order to become avid readers and to reap the full benefits of lifelong literacy, children have to see both themselves and worlds beyond their own in the stories they read.

Want to purchase culturally inclusive books and have them shipped directly to our office?

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop explains the meaning and significance of Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.

We are inspired by the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop whose seminal essay, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” asserts:

“Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books…When there are enough books available that act as both mirrors and windows for all our children, they will see that we can celebrate both our differences and our similarities, because together they are what makes us all human.”[1]

Book Harvest works every day to provide books to children and families that are “Mirror, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” into the lives of all children everywhere.

The Challenge

The unfortunate reality is that there is limited availability of diverse and inclusive children’s books.  These statistics[2] underscore the stark challenge we face:

  • Of all the children’s books published in 2018, most main characters were white (50%), followed by animals (27%). Only 10% were African/African American; not even 5% were Latinx.
  • Black, Latinx, and Native authors combined wrote just 7% of new children’s books published.
  • Inclusive children’s literature that features characters who are either physically and/or intellectually diverse—characters who have been labeled as disabled—remain few and far between. Additionally, those texts that do exist often follow tropes of pity or dehumanization. These texts have also been heavily critiqued for their over-representation of white male characters who access prosthetics.[3]

As civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman observes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” We clearly have a long way to go before we can say with certainty that all children can see themselves in the books and authors they read – but Book Harvest is determined to make progress along this road.

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What We're Doing: Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors in Action

At Book Harvest, we are committed to providing high-quality diverse and inclusive books to children and families.

Here is Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors in action:

  • Book Drives: We provide materials that explain Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors and encourage book drive captains to share this perspective with their participants. While we welcome all donations of new and gently used children’s books, we are always especially grateful for diverse and inclusive titles!
  • Dream Big: At our cornerstone event, celebrated on MLK Day each year, we celebrate our big dream of books and literacy for all children as we honor the legacy of Dr. King.
  • Informal learning spaces: Laundromats, barbershops, health clinics — in all these everyday places where families spend time, we stock bookshelves filled with free books in which children recognize themselves, through which they become eager readers on the laps of their parents while the laundry spins or in the barber’s chair as the clippers buzz.

You can download a pdf of this information here.

[1] https://scenicregional.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mirrors-Windows-and-Sliding-Glass-Doors.pdf.
[2] “Data on books by and about people of color and from First/Native Nations published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.”
[3] https://blog.leeandlow.com/2019/05/28/how-to-critically-select-childrens-books-with-representations-of-disability-experiences/

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Our Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors Book List

View and download our Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors List HERE.

Our "Featured Five" for the month of June were inspired by Immigrant Heritage Month and include stories from Korea, Egypt, India, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic:

  1. The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi
  2. The Arabic Quilt, by Aya Khalil
  3. Home is In Between, by Mitali Perkins
  4. La Frontera: El viaje con papa/My Journey with Papa, by Alfredo Alva
  5. Islandborn, by Junot Díaz (English edition) or LOLA: Edición en español (Spanish Edition)

You can purchase diverse and inclusive books to donate from The Regulator Bookshop or Amazon here and have them shipped directly to our office. Learn more.

Featured Five: June

The Name Jar
BY Yangsook Choi

Featured Five: June

The Arabic Quilt
by Aya Khalil

Featured Five: June

Home is In Between
by Mitali Perkins

Featured Five: June

La Frontera: El viaje con papa/My Journey with Papa
by Alfredo Alva

Featured Five: June

Islandborn (English edition)
or LOLA: Edición en español (Spanish Edition)
by Junot Díaz

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