“Let me end by encouraging you to read without walls. Find a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Find a book about a topic that you don’t know much about. Find a book that’s in a format you’ve never tried before: a graphic novel, a words-only novel, or a novel in verse. Read without walls and see what happens. I bet it’ll be something amazing.”
-Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
When you walk into the GDS LMS Library, you see a beautiful wall of windows spanning the entire room. While you don’t see any mirrors, windows and mirrors work together to anchor everything we do in the library.
This can mean different things for different students. For white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian students, a large percentage of any library serves as their mirror. They can find many books in which the main characters reflect large parts of their identity back at them. For students who identify along less historically and culturally dominant lines, many of the books in a library collection serve as windows into a world that is not their own.
What is the ideal? The ideal library is a place where students who rarely see their identities represented in the world can find a mirror in books. The ideal library is also a place where students who do see themselves with positive representation in historical and contemporary culture are challenged to use a book as a window into the world of a person who is/was portrayed differently. . . or not at all.
What about the GDS Library? In our library we make huge efforts to make sure all students have the opportunity to read both books that act as windows, and books that act as mirrors. Despite those efforts, we still find many of our students gravitate towards books that don’t challenge them to see things from under-represented points of view. We believe that when students read books that show them a perspective other than their own, they become more empathetic and ultimately better prepared for the world they will inherit.
How can parents help? One of the major efforts the GDS LMS librarians make to provide students with an opportunity to read with windows and mirrors is through our summer reading list. Though we don’t require summer reading, we know that GDS is a community of readers, and many of our students read dozens of books, if not more, during this time.
Our lists give ample opportunity for expanding one’s perspective. We purposely create our summer reading lists with an eye towards the Big Eight Social Identifiers (race, ethnicity, gender, ability, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and age) so that underrepresented voices are present.
While this is not a complete list of all the different identities our community members hold, it is a start. We hope that by looking at our lists all GDS students will see parts of their identities mirrored back at them. We also hope that all students will challenge themselves to read a book from a perspective that is unfamiliar to them.
Should students read whatever they want? Absolutely! We are big believers in free choice and reading whatever makes students look forward to a spending time with a book (electronic, audio, graphic or print!). However, we also recognize that sometimes, with just the right push from a teacher or parent, students will broaden their horizons and be happy they did so.
When we release our Summer Reading lists on June 12, please use them as a way to start a conversation about what your child might like to read, and affirm the choices that they make on their own while also making available choices that will honor Gene Yang’s request that we “Read without Walls.”
You might challenge yourself to do this as well!
If your family is inspired to do this you may want to check out one of the pre-existing movements, or, true to the GDS way, start your own!
#ReadingWithoutWalls, #BoysReadGirls, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #1000BlackGirlBooks, #StepUpScholastic, #RainbowReading