By Allison Peters Jensen, Director of Libraries and Sarah Wright, Director of Inclusivity

Let’s kick off 2020 with a New Year’s resolution to read with abandon, curiosity, interest, and from within a prism. What does that mean? Let us explain.

Quite often within the equity and inclusivity framework, it is widely shared that books should present students with windows into someone else’s world and mirrors that reflect their culture to further the development of their identity. This theory was first introduced by Emily Style for the National SEED Project and pushed educators to evaluate their libraries and lessons.

Prisms instead of windows and mirrors

Instead of viewing books as windows and mirrors, we believe we should create prisms, so students see the variety of experiences that can take place. Even when considering an individual student experience, we want to expose them to many variations of what it could look like to be them, and what it could look like to be part of any given race, ethnicity, class, gender, etc.

Uma Krishnaswami addresses this issue in a 2019 Horn Book article titled “Why Stop at Windows and Mirrors?: Children’s Book Prisms. She writes, “…books can disrupt and challenge ideas about diversity through multifaceted and intersecting identities, settings, cultural contexts, and histories. They can place diverse characters at these crucial intersections and give them the power to reframe their stories. Through the fictional world, they can make us question the assumptions and practices of our real world.”

When light hits a prism, it can split white light into its component colors. When we provide prism moments for students, we allow them the space to explore all facets of their identity and build deeper connections with one another. It grants permission for educators and families to foster the whole child.

Books ‘capable of refracting light’

Colorado Academy librarians are committed to offering materials for the CA community that will operate as prisms for our readers. Through our rich print collections, students, faculty, and parents have many opportunities to meet themselves and others, make connections, ponder challenging ideas, ask questions, and engage in reflection and conversation. Following is a list of recommended titles for all ages that we believe, in Krishnaswami’s words are, “capable of refracting light.”

Pre-K-2nd grade

Yard Sale by Eve Bunting

Not so different: what you really want to ask about having a disability by Shane Burcaw

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Mallaird

Saturday by Oge Mora

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

3rd-5th grade

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Mascot by Antony John

Let ‘Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion by Vaunda Micheaux

Love Sugar Magic: a Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce

30 People who changed the world by Jean Reynolds

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Middle School (Middle Grade)

Kings, Queens, and In-betweens by Tanya Boteju

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Look Both Ways: a tale told in ten blocks by Jason Reynolds

Roll with It by Jamie Sumner

Stargazing by Jen Wang

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D Williams

Upper School (Young Adult)

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

We Set the Dark on Fire by Kekla Magoon

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki

Frankly in Love by David Yoon


The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Dominicana: a novel by Angie Cruz

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Social Justice/ Identity- Educational Text Adult 

Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Tatum

Gender and Discourse by Deborah Tannen

Daring Greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead by Brene Brown