Why Students Need Books That Provide Windows and Mirrors

TeacherVision partnered with Simon and Schuster to recommend three books that support teachers to provide their students with windows into new experiences and perspectives, and mirrors that reflect back their identities. We also include reading guides to support meaningful discussion and critical thinking in the classroom.

Updated: May 24, 2019

Diverse books for the classroom

 

No one is doing the reading! You assigned two chapters the night before. Today’s lesson plan is a series of comprehension activities. You ask the first question in class, and hear nothing but crickets.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

The first time I experienced this was during my first year of teaching. I followed the curriculum no matter what that year, and when it said the students should read the play, “12 Angry Men,” that is what I planned to do.

Until no one did the reading.

Looking back on it now, it seems so obvious. Of course no one did the reading. I was teaching eighth grade in a New York City public school. At first glance, nothing about this play reflected my students’ lives and experiences. Or did it?

My students shared that the play was “boring,” and “they didn’t get it.” One honestly said, “I just don’t want to read this.”

The question was, why not?

If you think about the books that have stayed with you, what are they? Why did they keep you engaged? Was it a particular character? The setting? The plot? Did the book take you somewhere else or remind you of your own backyard?

"When I think about the books that meant the most to me in school, they have one thing in common: they reflected back an aspect of who I was and they challenged me to consider a perspective other than my own. They provided a mirror that reflected back my identity, and a window that opened up the possibility of something entirely new."

I believe that we need to challenge our students to read books that provide windows, even if it means those books aren’t their favorite books to read. I also believe that we need to encourage our students to read books that provide mirrors, so they are excited to see themselves reflected on the pages.

My students finished “12 Angry Men,” but we read it in class together. I also paired the play with Anna Deavere Smith’s collection of monologues, Fires in the Mirror. Both texts challenged students to think about justice and what is fair, but one text provided a window, and the other a mirror.

The windows and mirrors framework can serve as a guide so that you fill your classroom library with diverse authors, settings, and characters so that every student has access to both windows and mirrors.

This month on Morning Announcements we are highlighting teaching topics and resources that support diversity and inclusion in classrooms. We partnered with Simon and Schuster to recommend three books to consider adding to your required reading or classroom library, so you can provide your students with both windows and mirrors.

Another

 

Another Book Cover

In this wordless picture book by Christian Robinson, readers encounter other perspectives. The story provides a window into new possibilities as they journey into another world. Recommended for grades 4-8. See the reading guide for guiding questions that will support students to think critically, make predictions, and discuss character, setting, plot, and big ideas.

Reading Guide
Get It Here

Genesis Beings Again

 

Genesis Begins Again Cover

In this middle grades novel,  Alicia D. Williams tells the story of thirteen-year-old Genesis who has made a list of everything she hates about herself. In this novel, Genesis must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself. It is a coming of age story, and a powerful testament to the challenges of growing up and finding your place in the world. The reading guide will be available on TeacherVision soon.

Reading Guide
Get It Here

Blended

 

Blended Book Cover

For students whose parents are divorced or who have blended families, the middle grades novel, Blended by Sharon Draper will provide students with a mirror that reflects back their reality. The main character Isabella feels pulled between two worlds as she goes back and forth between her mom and dad’s houses, which are very different. The book explores what it means to be half black and half white, and explores how Isabelle navigates two different families while also growing up and learning who she is and where she fits. See the reading guide for guiding questions that will support students to explore internal conflict, word choice and metaphors.

Reading Guide
Get It Here

Here are some additional resources on windows and mirrors: Window or Mirror? Lesson Plan and Curriculum As A Window and Mirror.

To explore more diverse books, check out Kaleidoscope, Simon and Schuster’s diverse books program. You can find links to download our brochure, as well as title lists by category, and downloadable reading group guides: http://simonandschusterpublishing.com/kaleidoscope/.

Do you have any reading suggestions? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Simon & Schuster:

Founded in 1924, Simon & Schuster is a major force in the consumer publishing industry, dedicated to bringing an extensive cross section of first class information and entertainment in all printed, digital and audio formats to a worldwide audience of readers.

Julie Mason is the Head of Curriculum and Content for TeacherVision. She taught middle and high school English for eight years, and then worked as an instructional coach, supporting K-12 teachers to blend and personalize their classrooms.

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