How to Select Books as Literary Windows ~
Written by Amber O’Neal Johnston from Heritage Mom
Home and family are where differences are celebrated, and books are often the best or only avenue available for kids to see inside the homes of others and begin to fill in the soft outlines of their understanding of how other people see the world.
Providing books as literary windows gives honest and varied views of different people’s lives and is like pulling back the curtains of a darkened room, allowing light to pour in. Literary windows provide a realistic view of how others live while simultaneously situating children within the context of a wider world.
An intentional home library (or public library haul) of windows is a first step to bringing balance to any curriculum, and it’s a creative way to raise children who operate with humility and confidence.
There’s no strict prescription for what constitutes a window because priorities and perspectives vary across households and backgrounds. But generally, I’ve found that many of the best selections of books as literary windows fall into the following categories:
How to Select Books as Literary Windows
A Day in the Life
Books that show how children in other countries, regions of our own country, and even our neighbors who look different live their daily lives today are invaluable. It’s easy for this category of books to become trite, so seek authentic voices when possible and choose dignity over tokenism and stereotypes in every case.
Family Is Everything
Family-focused stories offer ample opportunity for children to see the many similarities between their loved ones and others. This dynamic is just as important as embracing differences.
Family-centered books are also where we can most easily witness joy expressed through food, music, clothing, rhythms, and traditions, giving children a vivid sense of our common humanity and shared values.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Photographs and illustrations communicate things that authors often leave unsaid. They can show the variety of dress, skin color, hairstyles, home decor, food, leisure, transportation, and more.
Books featuring quality pictures are perfect for strewing around the house for children to happen upon and flip through.
Legends or myths passed down through generations of people within a culture or cross-culturally are unique ways to understand the core beliefs of a people’s ancestors. The storytelling traditions of many groups hold a rich heritage of experiences on which some of their modern views may rest.
Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs
It’s nearly impossible to write about a person’s life without including details on the world around them. Biographies and autobiographies often shed light on how people lived and what they received and gave to those around them, providing day-in-the-life glimpses contextualized within a broader historical perspective.
They’re gold mines for learning about people and the spaces in which they operate.
I’m not sure that any other art form so quickly and thoroughly communicates the beliefs, customs, and dreams of a person or group of people.
Thoughts shared in verse explore what the poet may find familiar, what she loves, the beauty or pain she sees in her world, and even her opinions on real-life occurrences. Poetry is a near-perfect window.
Books containing copies of primary sources such as speeches, interviews, documents, and letters are often windows that speak entirely for themselves. Resources such as these can provide more truthful and accurate accounts of people’s perspectives during a particular time.
Rooted in reality but not hemmed in by factual occurrence, historical fiction often brings humanity to stories of triumph while credibly redeeming tragedies. Some of these books are a gentle way to introduce tough topics, while others spur children to emulate heroes and ensure that some parts of history don’t repeat themselves on their watch.
These categories are not the only types of books as literary windows to share with children, but they’re an ideal beginning for families looking to expand their reading lives as they learn more about their communities and the world.
To learn more check out my book, A Place to Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond (currently 60% off on audio!) and/or Jamie’s book, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time (afflinks)
What’s Your Homeschool Mom Personality? Take Jamie’s quiz now and receive a free personality report to help you organize your homeschool based on what your type needs most!