In the summer of 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop used the famous allegory of “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors” concerning children’s literature. She explained that children’s books can be windows, offering readers a glimpse into another world, another perspective. Children’s books can also be sliding glass doors, allowing creative readers to “step into” the story, to use their imagination to become part of the book’s world. Sometimes, however, children’s books can be mirrors, reflecting a child’s own experiences back to him/her.
Dr. Bishop said, “Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”
Ugandan children are no exception; they deserve to find their mirrors in the books that they read. That is why local stories are of great value.
1. Local stories encourage reading for pleasure.
When children grow up seeing only books that they do not relate to, they can develop the idea that reading for pleasure is just not for them. They can begin to view a love of reading as a foreign concept. Seeing characters, settings, and themes that the children relate to can build a love of reading, an understanding that books are, in fact, meant for them.
2. Local stories provide positive role models.
Some Ugandan children want to be authors, either when they are still children or when they become adults. When they read/see books that are by Ugandan authors, it affirms their desire to be a writer. They learn to believe that they can also become authors/writers.
3. Local stories stimulate comprehension and engagement.
One of the most important qualities of critical readers is their ability to make connections between themselves and the books they read. They link their background knowledge to the new knowledge in the text to help them understand what they’re reading. So, when children find a book with names and themes that are familiar to them, they are more likely to comprehend it.
One of our most popular books, Left Alone, is a thrilling story about a young boy, Jomo, who finds himself alone on the streets of Kampala. Ugandan children can relate to the places he sees (the Bus Park), the food he sees (chapatti, mugoyo), and the concepts in the book (street children on the road, heaps of clothes on sale in a second-hand market near the Bus Park).
Because the children have the background knowledge that applies to this book, they will understand it and engage more.
4. Local stories build empathy and social awareness.
Children in Uganda do not all share the same experiences. A child living in one part of the country may grow up with a different experience from a child living in another. Therefore, local stories can act as windows through which children are introduced to different worldviews and backgrounds.
Local stories can have a great impact on the mind and character of a child, because as much as “window” books are necessary, “mirror” books should not be sidelined.
At the Oasis Book Project, we specifically publish culturally relevant storybooks and price them affordably. Take a look at our products!