I was in kindergarten when I realized from the back seat of the family van that I finally understood the words on the street signs as we drove past them. The metaphorical light bulb flashed above my head—I could read! From that moment forward, I read whatever I could get my hands on: cereal boxes, theater scripts, magazines, the Sunday funnies, closed captioning on television…you name it. My parents always supported my reading choices, no matter how odd.
My childhood reading preferences might have labeled me a “reluctant reader,” but I wasn’t reluctant. I liked a little bit of everything, and I was just as willing to explore out-of-the-ordinary books as I was the classics. Even today, I still enjoy a variety of formats and genres, but comics, picture books, narrative nonfiction, and books with social justice themes always find their way to the top of my to-read piles. I’m especially drawn to books that fulfill my sense of curiosity, and that challenge me to keep learning and asking questions about the world.
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop has written about literature functioning as “windows and mirrors.” Through books, we can see our experiences and identities reflected and validated. Books also help us build empathy as we encounter and grow to understand differences. I try to keep this in mind with every reading selection, and work to seek out books that authentically reflect and celebrate diversity in all of its forms.