Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Doors
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners and Dumpling Soup are books recently donated to all District 427 elementary schools by generous community members. These two books represent the start of an effort to bring continued diversity to our school libraries, supported by Jennifer McCormick, English Language Arts Instructional Coach.
McCormick was responsible for distributing the books to school libraries. Rather than simply dropping the books off at the schools, McCormick wanted to honor the community members who donated them. "We waited for the beginning of the year craziness to die down before distributing the books. We let each of the libraries know how they got [the books] —- the journey to [the schools] — and created an internal website for teachers to learn about the books," McCormick said.
The importance of diverse books is captured by Dr. Sims, professor emerita at Ohio State University, who coined the phrase Mirrors. Windows. Sliding Doors. about children's books and the importance of having them be diversified. We need books that act as mirrors, where students can see themselves, windows where students can look, see other people and cultures, and sliding doors where students can use their imagination and step into another world.
North Elementary School currently has the books displayed in the new books section and plans to move them around the library throughout the year. “For students who have other ethnic backgrounds, having books about different cultures provides windows into different traditions and practices,” said Clare Demsey, librarian at North Elementary School. “Books like these are a wonderful way to show students Asian culture. It's like looking through a window.”
McCormick is currently seeking a grant through the Sycamore Education Foundation to make our school libraries more diverse. With the grant, McCormick plans to purchase books that will diversify library offerings and create an educational tool that can be used all year long instead of only a national day or month. "The goal is not just to highlight a culture but to curate titles around a broader theme and hit it from multiple perspectives," McCormick said. Instead of highlighting a culture for one month, teachers can highlight a broader topic with the lens of diverse perspectives. For example, when teaching about scientists, instead of only talking about scientists in the United States or of a specific ethnicity, teachers can talk about scientists from different backgrounds and cultures. "While we are doing a good job at representing different people from different cultures, we need to be able to integrate different cultures into our work," McCormick said.