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2019-2020

Posted: December 6, 2019

Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors

In her weekly message, Superintendent Reedy writes about an APS program that gives culturally responsive books to students.

I was at West Mesa High School recently when 800 students in the bilingual program chose three books a piece to take home. Three books in either English or Spanish to call their own, share with loved ones, talk about with friends. Books about real people or fictional characters who look like them, talk like them, live like them.

The books are among more than 40,000 being distributed this semester to about 11,000 students in bilingual programs at 65 schools across the district. The giveaway is part of a collaborative effort by APS Language and Cultural Equity and Library Services to surround students with culturally responsive books.

This initiative was influenced in part by the work of academic scholar Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, who wrote and spoke about the need to expose students to books where they see themselves, their families, their cultures and their experiences.

Dr. Sims Bishop is most famous for her description of literature as windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors. Maybe you are familiar with this concept. As Dr. Sims Bishop so eloquently wrote:

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”

Like Dr. Sims Bishop, I didn’t see myself in most of the books of my childhood. Oh, how wonderful it would have been to relate more to some of my literary heroes, their traditions and lifestyles. I want our students to have that opportunity. I want them to learn to love reading not only because it gives them a window to the world but also because it allows them to see themselves.  

LCE and Library Services are working with schools to make sure our students have access to books both at school and home that provide this opportunity. In addition to providing books for students to take home, they also are working to create multicultural K-12 collections for classroom and school libraries.

As LCE Senior Director Jessica Villalobos put it, “It is our hope that by putting books in front of students in which their cultures are represented, they will find mirrors for themselves in the literature, they are reading, as well as build connections between themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Helping students see themselves and build connections. That's what we do in public education. It's what you do every day, and it is appreciated.