Windows and Mirrors
“Books are often the best or only avenue available for kids to see inside the homes of others and begin to fill in the soft outlines of their understanding of how other people see the world.”
~Amber O’Neal Johnston, A Place To Belong
Johnston in her book, A Place To Belong, describes books as being both windows and mirrors. A window that allows you to see your neighbor and how they live. Books also act as a mirror or a tool that allows you to reflect on who you are and how you should live. Books that supply both windows and mirrors are an important part of raising up the next generation. A family reading practice can be an important practice because children can gain an understanding of the world around them and an understanding of who they are.
One of the gifts that Logos Prep has given me is time to read aloud to my children and be intentional about reading to them. I remember reading Johnny Tremain to my children and then listening to one of my children read the Hobbit. During that time of reading, my children saw me read. Research has shown that the number one reason that children don’t read is that they don’t see a parent read. It is never modeled. Thinking back, my personal reading time occurred when all the children were in bed and I could quietly have time to myself to read and eat from the hidden stash of Oreos. They never saw me read (or eat the Oreos) if I only did it when they were in bed. Creating a practice of a family reading time allows children to see you read and then from the reading to have discussions that not only increase their vocabulary, but help them gain understanding of the world.
Reading a rich and diverse variety of books together as a family allows for an opportunity to teach and to share perspectives. Books become windows to other points of view and cultures. When reading about hard topics, the books become safe places to discuss and gain an understanding of others. Having what Johnston describes as a “library of windows” will help teach about a colorful world of people and cultures. “Children who grow up seeing a wide variety of skin colors splashed across the page of their picture books won’t be surprised when they see the same rainbow of colors on the playground.” A family reading practice opens the window to loving our neighbor better.
Books can also be a safe place to reflect on ourselves and shape our children’s identity. I have a favorite book that I read to my children and when I read it I couldn’t help but cry. My kids would roll their eyes, but were drawn into the story. In the story, a young brave boy acts very courageously and saves another young man. I remember having the discussion with my children about being brave and doing the right thing even if it was hard. The book allowed me to reflect on the core values of our family in a safe way. When hard topics are brought up in books, you can talk and have the opportunity to shape their worldview. This gives children the opportunity to ask questions and to gain understanding of themselves. Children can see themselves represented and gain an understanding of how they might handle an issue or problem and this can maybe even inspire them and help them persevere through difficult situations. Books as mirrors allow a child to see themselves and help in their formation.
Influencing your child to read is not just the process of teaching phonics and word decoding, but carving out time and space that allow an easily distracted mind to focus and comprehend the words of a book. A family reading practice is an intentional act in the modern world and one worth practicing.
Elementary Education Principal
Logos Preparatory Academy