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Aug 19, 2019 |

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 Family Learning Program

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, they invested in the organization’s 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 reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.

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 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.

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

Better World Books

Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.

Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.

Read more about Better World Books

Goodling Institute

NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.

The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.

Learn more about the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University