What is Mirrors Windows Doors?
Mirrors Windows Doors (MWD) is an online magazine whose aim is to draw attention to the riches of children’s and YA books from across the world that highlight cultural and multi-cultural diversity. MWD promotes authenticity of voice, and writing that increases empathy through reading about different experiences within different cultural contexts – maybe next door, maybe across the globe – whilst tapping into a common bond of humanity and shared emotional response.
MWD is a resource for librarians, teachers, parents and carers, as well as teens, who want to find out more about the kidlitosphere from a global perspective.
Why the name Mirrors Windows Doors?
‘Mirrors, windows and doors’ is a metaphor that can be used to refer to the need for children to find themselves reflected in books; for books to provide an opening onto worlds beyond their own experience (worlds real or imagined) – because children need to see children that look different in the books they read; and for reading to provide a conduit for children to journey into the world and experience all it has to offer.
Founding publisher of Groundwood Books in Canada and former International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) president Patsy Aldana has been a great purveyor of the metaphor and it was from her that I first heard it. It was originally coined, however by Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at Ohio State University, who specialised in African American children’s literature. In a 1990 article re-published recently here by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), she wrote:
‘Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.’
I love this metaphor for so many reasons, and I’ll try and give some of them here…
It takes, as its basis, objects that figure in most people’s lives around the world, often without much heed being paid to them – but when you really look at them, they can provide a sense of place, of continuity, of history, art and culture. And when you bring together images of mirrors, windows or doors from around the world, they provide a rich resource for comparison, shared differences and similarities, and stories – all of which spirals of thought also feed the metaphor they encompass.
It highlights the transformative power of books.
Because mirrors, windows and doors are themselves already imbued with some sense of the figurative, by being brought together, they allow the metaphor to embrace the imaginary as well as the real – and, of course, imagination is so key to the creative process. By promoting the idea that children should find themselves in books, for example, we are not necessarily crying out for everything to be real (without getting started on a discourse of what ‘real’ is…).
Perhaps most saliently, as a metaphor, ‘mirrors, windows and doors’ rises above and beyond a temporal assignation of identity and labelling. What do I mean by that? Well, over the ten years that I have been critiquing children’s literature, I have been saddened and angered by the politicisation of certain terms (most especially, for example, ‘multicultural’, certainly in the UK), so that they are bandied about as a dirty word in some contexts. However, when such words become jargon, it does make you dig deep to understand your affiliation to them. To me, multicultural literature is important because it encompasses respect, diversity, discovery, authenticity of voice and empathy. It does not exclude or promote the ‘other’ to the detriment of ‘self’. Trying to get this across in a few words is difficult (and more is probably required here) – so that is where the compactness of the wording of the metaphor versus the explosion of meaning it encompasses/throws out into the world really comes into its own!
So Mirrors Windows Doors may sound like a glazier company, but it is actually absolutely the right name for this website!
Who is behind Mirrors Windows Doors?
My name is Marjorie Coughlan. I am the MWD editor and contributor of all content, unless otherwise stated. Before setting up MWD, I was Associate Editor (2005-2010) and then Editor (2010- 2013) of PaperTigers.org, now sadly no longer being updated. I have worked as a teacher, specialising in EFL and (European) languages; and I recently completed a PhD in Art History. I have addressed children’s literature conferences in London, Singapore and Vancouver; and I run workshops on reviewing children’s books. I was a member of the jury for the 2014 Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA).
I was brought up not far from Beatrix Potter’s Lake District home Hilltop. After some years living in Rome, Italy, I moved back to the north of England with my family in 2003; and I now live in the small town of Kirkbymoorside on the southern edge of the North York Moors. I love my window on the world through children’s literature.
From April 2016, MWD features a monthly review written by Debora Pearson, a children’s librarian at North York Central Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system, where The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities is located.
Debora works with Leigh Turina, the lead librarian for this collection, and helps to promote it through social media. She also conducts IBBY collection visits for school classes and youth groups, provides reference support, and assists with the compilation of the collection’s biennial Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities.
About the site
The font used in the banners is Painter Umesh – created as part of the HandpaintedType project set up by Hanif Kureshi to ‘preserve the typographic practice of street painters around India’.
If you have any comments about the readability of the site, or notice any mistakes or broken links, please send feedback to marjorieATmirrorswindowsdoorsDOTorg.
Books for Review
If you are a publisher, author, illustrator or literacy advocate and would like to be featured on this site, or you have a book you would like MWD to review, please contact me: marjorieATmirrorswindowsdoorsDOTorg.