Mirrors & Windows

Books Are Mirrors and Windows

Children who feel left out of books risk feeling left out of life.

Books, like mirrors, help reflect what we observe and know about the world we live in. It’s powerful to read or listen to a story about someone like you. Books also allow us to view and understand lives that are different from our own, like a window onto other experiences. But to succeed as mirrors and windows, books must tell a wide range of stories—and they must include a diversity of people and worlds. At Reach Out and Read, we’re committed to increasing access to inclusive books for young people of all races and backgrounds.

Stories Shape Who We Become

“Children’s books can take us to wondrous lands of imagination. But even in fantastical worlds, odds are good that the human characters will be white. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, less than 25% of children’s books are about people of color. Furthermore, books featuring people of color are often more expensive and harder to find in stores.

When children of color don’t find themselves represented in books, they internalize negative feelings of exclusion and inferiority, as if they and their lives are not worth recounting. And when white children don’t have the chance to learn about other cultures, they increase their susceptibility to harmful stereotypes and prejudices.

Diverse Book Recommendations

A key component of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy focuses on promoting more culturally responsive children’s books that serve as mirrors and windows. To do this work well, we are expanding our thinking and assumptions to ensure we are truly maximizing the opportunity we have as a national network.

Our Diverse and Inclusive Booklist demonstrates the richness of books available for children and families. In addition, it offers practical tips for choosing diverse and inclusive books, as well as elements to avoid. The list is available in a one-page condensed version and a multi-page version with book descriptions.

Change the Narrative

Reach Out and Read integrates literacy promotion into doctor’s visits to ensure that every family can make reading aloud a part of their routine: This happy, healthy part of growing up delivers lifelong benefits. As part of this work, we provide culturally responsive books to young families who might have a hard time finding them.

Increasing access to diverse stories isn’t just an ethical responsibility—it’s a medical one. As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2019 in a landmark policy statement, we must build inclusive literacy programs that reflect the diversity of children in our communities if we are to reduce the damaging impacts of racism on public health. We hope you’ll support our important work.

“Reading is the path towards knowledge, freedom, and empowerment.”

– Donor, Arizona

Mirrors and Windows is a metaphor originally coined by Emily Style in 1988 and then applied specifically to children’s books by Rudine Sims Bishop in her 1990 article “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.”