Contributed to CBC Diversity by Sam Kane
I just took over a school library after a previous librarian’s tenure of sixteen years. I immediately hung up my “windows and mirrors” sign and set up my window-shuttered mirror beneath it. Why?
Because back in 1997 Emily Style’s concept of “windows and mirrors” shocked me out of my comfortable, unaware world. It transformed both my vision of and mission for bookshelves. Today, my windows and mirrors display both acts as a tangible reminder of my charge and also lets others know I value an inclusive library.
Before participating in a Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity (S.E.E.D) workshop, and learning about “windows and mirrors”, I took for granted that books and curriculum reflected an experience similar to my own. As a white middle-to-upper-class, heterosexual female of European descent, I saw myself mirrored everywhere. Books validated my existence.
It had never occurred to me that my Native American Hispanic colleague could have reached the same age without that bond of connection with a book. I had never thought about how books and curriculum didn’t mirror her. I had never realized that she read books that only offered her windows with unfamiliar views. Books had made her feel invisible.
In an informal study of the top banned books since 2000, young adult author and Diversity in YA cofounder Malinda Lo reveals that 52 percent of challenged titles have diverse content or are written by a diverse author.
In an e-mail to School Library Journal Malinda Lo comments on the reaction she received after sharing her research publicly:
“I’ve been very gratified by the positive response to the post, and I hope it makes everyone involved with censorship issues look beyond the stated reasons for a book challenge, because I suspect those publicly stated reasons are sometimes hiding ulterior motives.”
Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, are revolutionizing reading for the visually impaired. The ‘Tactile Picture Books Project’ uses 3-D printing to create books that children can explore through touch.
“But why are so many of these characters white, straight, able-bodied and middle-class?” asked Dawson. “Malorie did not say there are too many white faces in children’s books, but I will. There, I just did. Put that on Sky News.”
Dawson attributed the lack of diverse books to the quest for sales. “Marketing is key here, clearly, but what it boils down to is fear that a book won’t reach its biggest possible audience and lose money. To me this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we think books about minorities don’t sell, we don’t put them in bookshops where they – big surprise – can’t possibly sell.” His mixed-race character Alisha would not be on the cover of his novel Cruel Summer “because of market research about what readers bought”, he added, saying there is “an abundance of white faces on covers” in children’s sections in bookshops.”
A month after UK Children’s Laureate Malarie Blackman was harassed for her thoughts on the need to diversify children’s literature, UK author James Dawson speaks up against the inequity of the publishing industry to industry professionals at the Patrick Hardy annual lecture.
Read the full article, James Dawson: ‘There are too many white faces’ in kids’ books, here.
The National Council for the Social Studies is now accepting submissions for the Carter G. Woodson Book Award. Established in 1974, the award honors the most distinguished non-fiction books for young readers that document ethnicity in the United States. All nominated books must be received postmarked no later than October 10, 2014.
Every year, the American Library Association organizes Banned Books Week to celebrate literacy and counteract censorship. This year, the committee plans to shine the spotlight on comics and graphic novels. Some of the titles that have come under fire in the past include the Bone series by Jeff Smith, the two-volume Persepolis books by Marjane Satrapi, and The Amazing Spider-Man series created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.