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Launching Readers Workshop with Books as Mirrors and Windows

Dr. Rudine Simms Bishop, in her 1990 article, wrote about the importance of literature as “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.” Our students come to us during this unique year, in the midst of two pandemics; a global health crisis and the urgent battle to dismantle systemic racism. As we embark on the social justice work of teaching this year, we must prioritize the celebration of our unique identities as well as learning about people who are different from ourselves. 

Many of us are launching our reader’s workshops in a way that we never have before. Whether you are teaching students in-person, remotely, or some kind of crazy combination of the two, it has never been more important to create a supportive and connected community of readers.

We seek to find books in which all students can see themselves. These mirror stories should surround students with other people/characters who share aspects of their identities, who have struggled and succeeded, overcome obstacles, and made change in their world. Likewise, by reading stories about people who are different from us, we have windows into the world and develop our interpersonal empathy. 

As you build your reading communities in grades 3-8, have students reflect on their own reading timelines. How have they developed as individual readers? In doing this, highlight books that have been our mirrors and windows into the world. As you model with your own reading history, ask students to share the books that have been their mirrors and windows. If they have not experienced books like these, make it your personal teaching mission to help your students to connect to text in which they can see themselves and others. 

Linked here is a launching lesson for students in grades 3 and up about identifying books as mirrors and windows.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Rudine Simms Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors“ originally published in The Ohio State University Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom. Vo6. no3. Summer 1990.

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