White folks walking: Exploring Bishop’s invitation into diverse books through poetic inquiry
MetadataShow full item record
Purpose In 1990, Rudine Sims Bishop opened the summer printing of Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom with a short but profound essay. With it, she put onto paper what many had been saying for decades, that the world of literature was overly White and needed to change (Larrick, 1967; Rollins 1948). She wrote that we needed more diverse books because books could serve as cultural mirrors, windows, and sliding doors for readers. In the three decades since that article, there has been considerable research about the impact of racially diverse books as mirrors for students of color to see themselves (Ishizuka, 2018; Koss, 2015; Mabbott, 2017; Tschida, et. al., 2014). There has been far less research focused on the ability of diverse books to serve as windows and doors into the lives of others. This study looks at the lived experiences of White folks walking through, or away from, books as sliding doors. Guided by Whiteness Theory and Social Identity Theory, the paper asks what happens when White readers are exposed to diverse authors, diverse characters, and diverse books. Method The paper uses arts-based research methods in an autoethnography, focusing on my lived experience as a White, male, father, educator, and researcher. Along with analyzing my own experience, the study includes data from participants, data gathered through classroom observation and dyadic conversation, as well as viewing and cataloging public comments made in school board meetings and online forums. Data is presented and analyzed through poetic form, exploring the voice of a researcher who has walked through the door, and has watched others do the same. Poems include self-reflection and reflection of others’ shared experience when reading, or avoiding, diverse books. Findings The study shares the voices of the researcher, educators, students, and community members in a predominantly White, suburban community. The participants that read and interacted with diverse books suggest that White folks can walk through the sliding door, but that it may take more than just reading. By discussing diverse books with the minoritized, simple reading led to conversations with those others whose worlds they walk into. White students show an acknowledgement of differences combined with an appreciation of the sameness they share with others. Educators share how reading diverse books has affected their classrooms, as well as their own perception and cognizance of others.