In the early hours of the morning – like at three this morning – I woke up with a start. All of a sudden I understood why as a child I kept going back to a few books to read over and over. The two that jumped out at me were book 1 of the Boxcar Children and Madeleine L”Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
These are two very different books – one realistic fiction, one fantasy. One was an easy read, straight forward and not a complex plot. The other was detailed, complex and a book you needed to think about. Why did I seek out these books?
I had no clear idea until last night – some 50 years later that I was looking for books that reflected my experience. (I know not a quick thinker. ) I was seeking books that had families like mine. I grew up in a family without a father. In the 50’s and early 60’s in small town middle America my family was very different. I didn’t have friends I could talk to who could understand that feeling of missing a parent so I looked to books whose main character or characters were missing a parent or who’s family structure was different than two parents and 2 or three kids. I needed a mirror and a window to help me think and process my own experience. It was a driving force in my reading even though I did not realize it.
Needless to say that when I became a teacher I wanted to be sure that there were books that reflected my students lives. I just knew it was important. I have written about this several times -the need and want to find books that reflect the beautiful faces I see each day. I knew, in some small way, that we need to see ourselves in the books we read.
In the past, for my students, I was only able to find books about slavery, and historical events. They were great but my African American students, my Hmong students, my Latino students, my students with special needs wanted to know that there are children who live lives like they do. They needed to see themselves in the everyday world now not just in the past. So I continued to search and hunt for books that reflect their experiences not just the cultural past of some of my students.
This last weekend the social networks were full of posters, comments and pictures for the #We need diverse books. I was so excited to have so many voices sharing that message. I loved the picture of a young lady who wrote – We need diverse books because – we are not all the same!
Please keep sharing! Publishers need to know we are seeking books to reflect ALL our children. Writers need to know we care and are seeking those books as well.