By: Tiffany Crump-Winters, MSW ’24
Around the country, book bans are making national news. As a former toddler/pre-k teacher who believes in the importance of literacy from birth, the conversation of banning books confused me. Reading books to children can increase their vocabulary. Books introduce us to the world. Books open the door to a world full of knowledge and imagination. If we censor everything, how will our children learn who is in the world and how to interact with others?
The beauty of communicating through books allows even our youngest learners to understand what message we are attempting to convey. As a mom and an early childhood teacher, reading to children is central to my practices as a parent and an educator. In my classroom, we would use books such as “Hands are Not for Hitting“ as a means to explain the importance of our hands but the dangers of using our hands to express our frustration. During transitions to preschool and kindergarten, we read books about characters transitioning to different levels as well, such as “Macy Goes to Preschool” and “The Queen of Kindergarten.” “Llama Llama Red Pajamas“ helped my daughter express her fear of being in the dark or not “seeing mommy” at bedtime.
But these are not the books that are being removed from schools and library shelves. The most-challenged and banned books have been about characters of color and LBGTQ+ community and their experiences in the world. Dr. Rudine Sims Bishops, “mother” of multicultural children’s literature, wrote an essay entitled “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors“ which explains that books can be mirrors and that children need to see themselves reflected in the books that they read. When Matthew Cherry’s “Hair Love” first hit the shelves, I was ecstatic. Being the only African American child in her preschool classroom, my daughter often asked me “Mommy, can you make my hair straight?” Instead of changing her hair to help her feel belonging, we read Cherry’s book together to celebrate the uniqueness and beauty of her natural hair.
Books can also serve as a window through which children can understand and embrace other cultures. During the holiday season, I read my students books about how holidays are celebrated around the world. The children were so curious about the different cultures that we made holiday crafts based on celebrations around the world.
Books are life changing and with every page we turn, we give our children the opportunity to experience newness and wonder. Books bring families and communities together. The mirrors these books have shown my daughter have given her a sense of self that cannot be undermined. As a mother, I’ve noticed that reading books opens a window of exploration and creates opportunities for meaningful conversations. My daughter is learning to connect what we’ve read with her lived experiences, and is using books as windows to new places, people and ideas. Books help her venture into the unknown and to increase her knowledge about herself and others.
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