Children’s Books: Windows and Reflections
by Ms. Nicole, Rosemary Garden Teacher
We all have our favorite books from childhood. I can still easily recall the books that I wanted my dad to read repeatedly until I had them memorized. And so many that were illustrated with such detail and beauty, I could spend hours staring at the images, imagining my life happening within those same pages. It is human nature to find ourselves in stories. Sometimes we connect to the characters because of what they look like or how they behave.
I grew up in a small town in Vermont where everyone I knew looked like me, and there was not any diversity that I was aware of. Even with limited cultural surroundings, one of my favorite childhood books was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The story of a boy named Peter, waking up one winter morning to a snowy day. He puts on his snowsuit and goes outside to play. He makes the first footprints in the freshly fallen snow as he walks. He makes a snowman and snow angels and climbs up a big snowy hill. When he returns home, his mother gives him a nice warm bath.
Now, I don’t look anything like Peter, with his dark skin and short black curly hair, but I still identified with him and what I imagined he was feeling on that snowy day. As a child, and to this day still, if I looked out my window and saw the snow had freshly fallen during the night, my heart would fill with joy. Peter’s pages became my story as I put on my snowsuit and made my own first footprints in the virgin snow. I would make snow angels and imagine Peter next to me as we shared in this secret moment of happiness.
It is important for children to see themselves reflected in the books and images that are read to them. It is also essential for children to have windows to look through to see and understand the multicultural world we live in. A well written story with characters of diversity can reveal the truth of the human experience that we are not so different after all.
Sometimes the images in books speak louder than the words for the young child. So we need to ask ourselves what ideas and themes are important to us in the world where we live today? How can we gently share with our young children the diversity that exists in our own backyard? Children can find their commonalities and humanity through stories and picture books. In honor of International Children’s Book Day take a peak at your library or in our school store to find multicultural and diverse stories to read to your children.
Nicole Williams grew up in Shaftsbury, Vermont and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She also holds a master’s degree in Waldorf education from Antioch University, New England. Ms. Nicole began her teaching at TWS in the extended care program in 1999 and assisted Karen Hoyt in the kindergarten for two years before taking on a Lead kindergarten position from 2002 to the present day. Ms. Nicole has also studied storytelling with Nancy Mellon’s, “Nurturing the Roots,” a three-year advanced therapeutic course for Early Childhood Educators, through the Denver Center for Anthroposophic Therapies. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, travel, yoga and hiking.