Support Diversity and Encourage Young Writers by Using Window and Mirror Books in Your Writing Workshop (Guest Post)
by Stacey Shubitz, September’s Guest Blogger
A powerful way for teachers to embrace diversity is through the careful selection of mentor texts. All students deserve to read mirror books, in which they can see themselves, and window books, in which they can learn about others. This means teachers must have books that represent a variety of religions, races, and sexual orientations on classroom bookshelves during all months of the year, not just the ones with special designations (e.g., Black History Month, Women’s History Month).
Children need exposure to books that mirror their life experiences. Classrooms with minority students need books with minority protagonists. Children with same-sex parents need opportunities to access books with other children who are navigating the world with a family that looks different than the “mom, dad, 2.2 kids, dog, and white picket fence” scenario most books often show. When children see their lives mirrored in books, it allows them to feel safe, thereby giving them permission to write freely about their own lives in the texts they compose.
Window books allow students to learn about others since they provide children with possibilities for different types of characters and new plot settings in their writing. In addition, window books invite children to imagine a world or lifestyle that’s different than their own, which may increase a child’s desire to research and write about other races, religions, or cultures.
Nearly every picture book could serve as a mentor text to help students become better writers. However, if you’re a teacher who only has time to do one read aloud a day, some books are better than others. In my forthcoming book, Craft Moves: How to Use Mentor Texts in the Classroom (Stenhouse, 2016), I recommend finding mentor texts that can do double―and even triple―duty in your classroom, thereby allowing you to use a text during read aloud time, which they can revisit during a writing minilesson and/or in a content area.
I’ve spent the past three years mining picture books that can be used to teach the qualities of good writing (i.e., meaning, elaboration, structure, voice, word choice, and conventions). However, every time I read a book, I looked at it through a lens of diversity because all children deserve to have mentor texts with characters whose lives are like theirs and those from which they can learn something new about the human experience. Here are 15 of my favorite fiction picture books – some of which I wrote lessons for in Craft Moves – I think you’ll want to have as window and mirror books for your classroom:
- A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall
- Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley
- Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis
- Eat, Leo! Eat! by Caroline Adderson and Josee Bisaillon
- Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts and Lauren Castillo
- Henry Holton Takes the Ice by Sandra Bradley and Sara Palacios
- Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De la Peña and Christian Robinson
- Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat and Leslie Staub
- Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez
- Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece by Patricia Polacco
- My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood
- Sona and the Wedding Game by Kashmira Sheth and Yoshiko Jaeggi
- Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer and Holly Clifton-Brown
- Yard Sale by Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo
Stacey Shubitz is a based in Central Pennsylvania. She’s a former 4th and 5th grade teacher who has worked in the New York City and Rhode Island. Stacey is the co-author of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice (Stenhouse, 2010). She’s presently editing her second book for Stenhouse, , which will be available in 2016. Stacey blogs at and can be found on Twitter at . When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with her family or experimenting with new recipes.