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Aug 19, 2019 |
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The following is part of a series of guest posts by leaders in the field of literacy and family learning. This post is authored by Debbie Reese, who is tribally enrolled at Nambé Pueblo, a sovereign Native nation in New Mexico, and whose writings are taught at universities and colleges across the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Reese will deliver a keynote speech at the 2019 Families Learning Conference.

When we think of stories and young children, we probably think of parents reading to their children. What we often don’t think about is the stories and how they are shaping what a child knows about the world and the people in that world.

 In 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, an education professor at The Ohio State University, put forth a metaphor that books can be “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” What she meant with “mirror” was that if the character in a book looks like the child reading the book, that child has a mirror that affirms their experience. 

 I think we would like all children to have an abundance of mirrors, but that is not the case. As this infographic shows, the four children on the left have very few mirrors compared to the child on the far right.

Source: https://readingspark.wordpress...

Now, look at the floor by their feet. See the shards of glass by the children on the left? Not only are their mirrors small, but they are also broken. When we created this graphic, we wanted to show that many of the books about them are not good mirrors. Instead, many of those books have stereotypical images and words, factual errors, and biased storylines. The data on the infographic can galvanize all of us to ask publishers to do better. Books that more accurately reflect the lives of Native and children of color are the windows in Dr. Bishop’s metaphor. Books that function as windows let us see and learn about people whose lives are different than our own. And books that are sliding glass doors? Those are the ones that we can slide open, walk through, and be in the world that the author created.

No doubt you know that people in the United States are, once again, thinking hard about diversity. As you look over your bookshelves, whether they are in a classroom, office, or home library, do you have mirrors? Windows? Sliding glass doors? My area of research and writing is how Native peoples are depicted in children’s books. I invite you to visit my website, American Indians in Children’s Literature, and learn to see what I see in popular, classic, and best-selling children’s books.


Tribally enrolled at Nambé Pueblo, a sovereign Native nation in northern New Mexico, Dr. Debbie Reese’s writings are used in English, Library Science, and Education courses at universities and colleges in the US and Canada. She publishes an online resource, American Indians in Children’s Literature, that is widely used by people in the creation, publication, review, and teaching of children’s and young adult books. In 2018, the American Library Association selected Reese to deliver its 2019 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. She will give a keynote speech at the 2019 Families Learning Conference on Wednesday, Nov. 6 entitled, "Fact and Fiction in Children's Books about American Indians." 


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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

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