What blind spots does your bookshelf reveal? How do you analyze book collections for often unconscious bias? (Read here for an overview of all the steps to building an inclusive bookshelf.)
The only way is systematically and deeply.
It is tough to see what is invisible. But as gatekeepers of children’s books and subsequently the shapers of how a child understands the world, we must try.
Three lenses help bring biases into focus. Windows & mirrors. Missing voices. And multiple perspectives.
1. Examine the windows and mirrors.
• Check for mirror books, books that reflect your audience’s experiences.
• Look for windows, books that open up your audiences understanding of other experiences.
• Do you have more windows than mirrors?
• More mirrors than windows?
• Every child needs a variety of mirrors that reflect the complexity of his or her identity. This way his or her sense of belonging and value are validated.
• All children should have their world view expanded beyond their own borders. Reading about others encourages understanding, empathy and celebration of all humanity.
2. Consider the missing voices.
• Whose stories are being told?
• Look at your non-fiction. Do you have just the victors’ story?
• Do your inventors, scientists, mathematicians, leaders, etc. represent a variety of races and include both male and female?
• Do you have materials that reflect voices rarely heard? Fantasies that have a differently abled heroine? A novel that shows an African American as neither victim, perpetrator nor a historical figure?
3. Analyze for multiple perspectives.
• If you have a title that depicts Christopher Columbus as an explorer hero do you have a title that considers the indigenous perspective?
• Do your Thanksgiving titles just focus on food, families, friends and celebration? Or do you include materials that share the Wampanoag’s point of view?
• Do these stories reflect the spectrum of experiences for that identity? For example does the collection have Puerto Rican, Dominican, and a variety of other Latino/ Hispanic voices? Or are all the titles examples of a Mexican experience?
• Do the voices paint just one way of life within a particular community or is there diversity of looks, family, work and so forth within that group?
As you try and balance your bookshelf with windows and mirrors, multiple perspectives and missing voices, you may not be able to fill the gaps on your own.
Don’t worry; I will soon post an extensive but not exhaustive list of resources to help you find these books.
Also feel free to leave a comment below sharing what titles you might need and I will see if I or other readers might have suggestions.