Last week, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting fifth graders from the Ottauquechee School. They are studying diversity in children’s literature and took a field trip to the store to pick out books for their library.
I gave a short presentation on how we select books for the store using the “Mirrors and Windows” concept: Does the book reflect back to readers a setting or situation that they can relate to? Does the book expose readers to a different world so they might better understand others?
I talked about how diversity or a current issue is sometimes the main topic of a book. Other times, diversity topics serve as more casual plot lines. For example, in Mascot, the main character is adjusting to his new life following a car accident. He was a basketball star and now gets around in a wheelchair. In contrast, in A Snicker of Magic, one of the main characters uses a wheelchair and the reader doesn't even know this for seven pages after he is introduced. It just is.
Then the students set out to find books that met their criteria. For me, it was like a fast-paced quiz show. Do you have historical fiction with Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindi characters? (Homeless Bird) Books about real women heroes? (lots!) Graphic novels about disabilities? (El Deafo) One boy was pleased that I recommended The London Eye Mystery, which is solved by a child whose “brain works differently.”
The kids were great! I had fun watching them discover picture books, graphic novels, biographies, and fiction chapter books. A wonderful way to start my day! - Liza