Environmental Print

Every Tuesday I volunteer in Bea’s class for Writer’s Workshop. It’s been so fun watching the kindergarteners progress in their confidence as readers and writers, even in these first few months of school. A couple weeks ago, the class learned about “environmental print,” or words they already know because they see them daily.

cereal-1444495_960_720Mrs. M pulled out boxes and bags with things like Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch. Many of Bea’s classmates knew those words right away but Bea didn’t ever raise her hand. The more signs that were pulled out of the bin, the more I realized that the environmental print in our home doesn’t match the environmental print in the homes of her classmates. It’s not that I’m against many of the products used, it’s just that we happen to like other brands.

This exercise made me think about the environmental print in my own world. I’ve been trying to read books that reflect more diversity – authors of different backgrounds and points of view than my own. In the past years, I’ve added Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to my shelves; I’ve looked for authors from different countries and life experiences. I’ve read most of Roxane Gay’s works and am currently reading essays from the Palestinian Festival of Literature. These authors have expanded my world and challenged my point of view.

I was talking with a friend the other day about a book that helped me better understand the evolution of gun laws in America. It gave me reference points and a history of an issue I hadn’t much thought about until recent years. I told her that what I loved about The Second Amendment: A Biography is that it seemed so balanced and unbiased.

But, I was reflecting that if I really connected with it and found it unbiased, it probably wasn’t. I have strong opinions on this particular issue and so any book that I connect with most likely will, on some level, reflect my own worldview.

I realized that, while I’ve been diversifying my reading list culturally and racially, I haven’t been diversifying it politically. Now, there isn’t enough time in a lifetime of reading to read every single point of view from every single issue. I have to be selective and picky to a certain degree. But…. I also strive to be fair and balanced.

As I look through my bookshelves and at the environmental print around our home, it’s pretty clear what our family’s beliefs and values are. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing in itself but I’m challenged to be more open to truly different points of view. As this year winds down and I look back on what I’ve read and make new goals for next year, I’m wondering how to include books from people I don’t agree with. Maybe I need to diversify in different ways.

How do you keep your reading list balanced? In what ways do you seek out other opinions and points of view while recognizing limited time and resources?


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Annie Rim

Welcome! I live in Colorado with my family and have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I reflect about life, faith, and books here on my blog.

7 thoughts on “Environmental Print”

  1. I admire your reading choices. My reading is mostly for relaxation (meaning fiction) or ministry related. I do enjoy conversations with folks who have different views. Listening, whether it’s from reading, news show, podcast or in person is my best tool for deepening my understanding.

    1. You know I need to get better at reading fiction… 😉 I find it easier in some ways to read a radically different book than a different news source… And I need to read other sides with an open mind, without looking for the flaws.

  2. My story is much like Debby’s above. I am intentional about establishing relationships with people of various cultures, nationalities and ethnicity. I’m not so good about diversified reading material. I have learned so much and incorporated some of those lessons into my life.

    1. You’re right – there is nothing better than making friends with actual people who are different from me. It’s hard to generalize when you’re in relationship with others, isn’t it?

  3. I try to do this. Not sure I am doing a great job of it. I try to pick up titles that are not usual and find sometimes that I may not agree with them politically or otherwise, but I can gain a respect for them on some level, at least.

    Browsing my shelf – I found this as an example:

    Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue
    by Sam Harris, Maajid Nawaz

    I believe more than one friend has asked me why a Sam Harris book was on my shelf… and I share this quote:

    “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

    ― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

    1. This sounds fascinating! I’ll have to add it to my increasing to-read pile! I’m trying to be better about following up with recommendations from friends whose beliefs are different from my own. It’s still much easier to read books that affirm my own point-of-view!

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