Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors - Why we need diverse books

Why are diverse books important? Is it enough that there are multicultural books for Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ+ kids? No, of course not. Each of us needs to try to understand others' life experiences, too.

"Diversity needs to go both ways," says Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita at Ohio State University, in this video. She discusses the need for "mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors." Known as the “mother of multicultural children's literature", Bishop explains that not only do we need to see ourselves reflected in literature but we also need the opportunity to enter into worlds that are unknown to us. [For more information about diverse literature and "mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors", visit the National Council of Teachers of English or the Institute for Humane Education.]

As populations undergo a demographic shift, schools across the country are battling over whether diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and critical race theory are racist. Now more than ever, the need to understand each other and to foster empathy is vital.

In York County, Pennsylvania, students and parents are speaking out about what has amounted to a ban on more than 300 diverse books for all grade levels in Central York School District. Banning books is just another symptom of the bigger issue of a fear of children seeing the world in a way that is not the way some people choose to. It ties to the question of teaching critical race theory (or social justice curriculum as is being explored in Reno, Nevada).

The students, parents, and educators in Central York have the support of area organizations and businesses. According to an ABC27 report, York County Libraries president Robert Lambert wrote, "Many of the subject matters are uplifting, affirming, and encouraging. Learning about human rights and learning about other peoples, cultures and perspectives are not political indoctrination. They are the lifeblood of our pluralism and our democratic republic. They are the oxygen for further questions and lifelong learning. They are the launching pad for a dynamic 21st century of diverse collaborations and problem-solving." The York Library system will work to obtain copies through interlibrary loans if necessary to ensure student access to the books.

An independent bookseller, Aaron's Books of Lititz, Pennsylvania, is also working to help students and educators have access to the banned books. They are offering to any Central York student or educator a free copy of one of the books from a representative selection of the hundreds of banned books. Aaron's is also encouraging those not in the Central York school district to purchase books from the list to share with a child in their own life.

Next week, September 26 through October 2, is Banned Books Week. This year's theme is "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us."

I founded Keystone Canyon Press because I believe books can make a difference in the world. We publish great books that challenge who we are, explore what we think, and impact what we do. Our authors share authentic voices that spark conversations to empower and to inspire. After all, books unite us.

Won't you join us?

Until soon,

Alrica Goldstein, Publisher
Keystone Canyon Press