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Fawzia Gilani-Williams, PhD

Children's Author & Internationally Experienced Educator

Mirror Books & Window Books

Greeting you with peace and wishing you happiness. 

Mirror books are books that give visibility to who you are. Mirror books are extremely important for positive self development especially for young children. Apart from the benefit to teachers of students picking up cues from familiar pictures to speed language acquisition, mirror books promote positive self esteem. they underscore a child's sense of belonging.  Essentially mirror books reflect the child. They have words and images that project the child's appearance, family, food, faith, culture, animals, buildings and language. Everything that is found in a mirror book essentially reflects the child's environment. According to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), 

When children feel a sense of belonging and sense of pride in their families, their peers, and their communities, they can be emotionally strong, self assured, and be able to deal with challenges and difficulties. This creates an important foundation for their learning and development. 

Window books on the other hand develop respect and understanding for other cultures, places, people, faith, and languages. Window books are equally important but are generally secondary to mirror books. Window books are also extremely important because they make the strange familiar. They teach children powerful lessons on diversity, difference and neighborliness.

Canada has invested heavily in Canadian children's literature. According to Howson and Edwards (2009)

“the premier of Ontario announced a commitment to spend $80 million in additional funding for elementary school libraries. The funding is intended to help all elementary schools add books and alternative formats of print-based resources to their kindergarten to grade 8 library collections”

The reason for the additional funding is to do with Canada's nationalistic concern that there are not enough mirror books that allow Canadian children to develop their own Canadian identity. Black and Jobe state, 

“Familiar emotions, activities, families, and surroundings are sensed through the depiction of the characters and story settings. To evolve a national identity, youngsters need to develop ... a feeling of 'This is where I belong'. It is crucial, therefore, that they see their communities ... country reflected accurately and authentically in literature” 

Stella Miles Franklin points out that, “without an indigenous literature people can remain alien in their own soil.” From a young age children begin to learn about the world through the images that they are exposed to. Jaime Naidoo (2014) states, 

"One way that children learn about the world around them and other cultures is through the social messages found in stories. Stories help children understand how society perceives their culture as well as [other cultures] … children are greatly influenced by the stories they encounter." 

However, this becomes a concern when images seek to foster a certain mindset and exclude another. Sunderland (1985) believes that "most of what children read is filled with ideology ... ideologies have potential powers of persuasion, they are no less persuasive because they’re hidden."

It is problematic when certain children do not see themselves in the books they read. Children very quickly learn through inclusion and exclusion who is important in the world and who is not. 

“When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued”  (Rudine Bishop)

Below is a book intended for children between Grade 1 -3. The index page lists notable holidays like Christmas and Chinese New Year and also obscure holidays like Hina Matsuri. However, missing is the second largest celebration in the world - Eid, which is embraced by over a billion followers. When there is a failure or resistance from mainstream publishers to include the culture of certain children, it provides an incentive for minority publishing houses to create a balance of literature for children who are invisible.