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 Academylibrarians 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.”