Slice of Life: Read Aloud Windows and Mirrors

My unwavering goal as a teacher is to make sure my students leave my classroom knowing that it’s possible to love a book. Every day we read aloud.

Most recently, we have been reading picture books with the lens of windows and mirrors. My students never cease to surprise me and teach me.

We read Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle. This beautiful picture book poem tells the tale of a Cuban-Chinese girl living in 1930s-Cuba. She wants to play the drums but is not allowed because she is a girl. I expected this to be a mirror for girls who saw this as unfair. Yet it was boys who saw this as a mirror. “My parents say only girls can make slime, not boys, so I can’t,” A– said.  The girls saw this story as a window. “That was how it was, but now girls can do anything,” said K–.


While it’s progress, girls have accepted their right to do, I know these same girls know women aren’t being paid equally. Many of the girls who sat on the carpet saying Drum Dream Girl is not a mirror have written about the inequities of women’s soccer player pay. So while it might look like gender inequity solved, it isn’t.  It’s a subtle change. This generation of girls is growing up, knowing they have the right to do. That’s the past. They are a part of the next step, equal acknowledgment for what they do.

The strict gender expectations of how boys must operate in the world saddened me.  Boys doing something girls do is not ok. An unchanged scenario. This seems a much smaller step than girls crossing cultural and work domains. But apparently, even a hint of a boy doing something a girl might choose to do is not allowed. Insulting and limiting.


Tomorrow we will read Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman. I can’t wait to see what type of reflections and viewpoints this will bring.



15 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Read Aloud Windows and Mirrors

  1. It is always interesting to hear kids’ take on books when we think we may know their reaction. There is nothing better than stories shared. A good reminder to me to pull out both of those books soon!

  2. I think this is the power of reading these books and considering windows and doors – We are going to have many of our own windows into our students’ thinking and experiences. And by reading and talking, our children can have conversations and develop new lenses and new experiences and new thinking. P.s. I’m on my way to order these two books.

  3. There are definitely some tight social constrictions for boy readers. Girls can (and do) read books with boy main characters, and they can read their way into those stories. But heaven forbid a boy read Baby Mouse, or a book with a girl on the cover or as the main character. They cannot read their way into any of those stories. It’s so sad…and limiting for boys as readers.

    Have you seen the picture book A BOY LIKE YOU? Might be interesting to add to this mix of gender conversations. Pair it with I WILL BE FIERCE. My class had great conversations.

    • It is complex and varied. I hope the continued conversation will allow more children to make these connections. Thank you for those recommendations. I’m looking to continue this study till winter break.

  4. Love these lessons and reading about the reflections your students have. Yes, there are subtle shifts, and we still have a ways to go!
    You always capture students’ responses so well. You bring us right into your classroom.

    On a different note—hope the fires are far from you!

  5. I love that you are creating space for them to explore, respond and question. Layering books to scaffold and wonder is so powerful – I look forward to hearing what they continue to discover and question.

  6. Mirrors and windows – I too like to use it with kids, and I love to read lots of picture books. We have talked about gender equality, identities, diversity, and perspectives. Fascinating conversations with kids. They know and understand a lot and can think deeply about the topics. Thank you for two more books I can add to my next book order.

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