Infants Insights: Incorporating Diverse books in your child’s home library
Rassamee Hayes, K2 Teacher and DEIJ Lead, UWCSEA Dover
23 September 2022
As an Infant School teacher and avid DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice) children’s book collector, the idea of Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors within children’s literature is at the heart of my work as an educator.
Mirrors: Allow learners to see themselves and their own experiences.
Windows: Learners can look to see other worlds that they can then compare to their own.
Sliding Glass Doors: Learners enter other worlds.
I am of multiracial descent (Thai and White American) and my partner and I are raising multiracial children (Black American, Thai and White American). We have seen first-hand how our children learn about the world around them and how they fit into it through the books they read, the images they see and the messages books send.
It is of critical importance that children have access to a wide variety of literature that shows a range of experiences and ways of being in the world.
A simple way that families can support their children in becoming more inclusive and empowered global citizens is to be mindful of the book collections they are curating in their home libraries. Consider what types of books your children have access to at home. What do the characters look like? What types of families are represented? Who are the main characters? Who are the supporting characters? What types of characters are NOT represented? If you are interested in auditing your child’s home library to see how it is representative of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, here are a few questions to consider…
Does the collection as a whole promote an understanding of all aspects of our diverse society and world (“window” books)?
Do the characters represent people from a variety of cultural groups, age ranges and size, including some with disabilities?
Do the characters include females as well as males in leadership and/or non-traditional roles?
©Anti-Defamation League, www.adl.org.
For more about Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors, watch Grace Lin’s Ted Talk: The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf.
In this article, I’d like to highlight 3 simple ways that families can curate more diverse and inclusive books into their home libraries. All books recommended in this article are available to borrow from the David Watson Primary Library at Dover. Mr. Kurt Wittig, our amazing librarian, has been hard at work for the past few years expanding our library collection to be more diverse and inclusive. It’s impossible to share all the amazing books that have been added so I’ll share a few favourites. You can email the Dover Librarians if you are looking for book recommendations or check out the Dover Library Catalog to reserve specific titles. If you’re interested in purchasing some new titles for your children, visit Woods in the Books (Tiong Bahru), Books Ahoy (Forum Mall) and Littered with Books (Tanjong Pagar) or search for local bookshops online.
1. Multicultural Fairy Tales – Fairy and folk tales are one of the first story genres that children are exposed to.
Children love reading familiar fairy tales and quickly learn how to retell the story orally before they know how to decode the words. You may have noticed your young children at 3 or 4 years old, retelling familiar tales aloud while turning pages of the books on their own. Adding fairy tales with characters from different cultures and countries can expand your child’s access to different mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors.
There are so many fairy and folk tales to choose from. Some notable authors and illustrators are Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Gerald McDermott, Grace Lin, Rachel Isadora, and Yuyi Morales. Another way to expand on fairy and folk tales is to add books from various cultures, perhaps your own home countries, those of your child’s friends at school or simply incorporating some Singaporean or Southeast Asian tales.
2. Everyday (Incidental) Stories –Simple children’s storybooks that tell everyday stories of visiting family members, playing with friends, going on trains or buses and overcoming fears are plentiful in the children’s book world.
However, when you look at the characters represented in these books there are a multitude of books with White protagonists and very few with protagonists of colour (Black, Asian and Brown protagonists). There are even MORE books with animal protagonists (think Max and Ruby and Piggie and Elephant) than there are of protagonists of colour. If your child sees themselves represented in the books they read, how does that impact them? If your child only sees characters that look like them, what ideas are they internalising about the world? If your child does not see themselves represented in the books they read, what message does that send them? Here are some powerful and gorgeous everyday books I highly recommend.
3. Books about Families: At the start of the school year, children are very interested in sharing about their own families and learning about their friend’s families.
Every family is unique and one of the ways we get to know each other in school, especially in the early years, is to share about our families with our class communities. Ensuring that your child’s home library has books that represent different family make ups including multigenerational families, single parent families and blended families is a simple way to make sure your child has an understanding of the variety of families that exist and that all families matter.
Bio: Rassamee Hayes is a K2 Teacher and DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) Lead at UWCSEA Dover. She has two children who attend K1 and G2 at Dover. Rassamee and her partner are originally from the United States and have lived in Asia for the past 3 years.