Stories Through Windows and Mirrors

girls reading books and smiling while sitting on couch

The first friends I ever had were either fictional or furry. The Hogwarts trio and the Pevinse family helped me through the school week, while Springer and Metro listened to my secrets and covered me in hay-sweet kisses all weekend. These friends sparked my lifelong love for reading and riding and helped me through the hardest periods of my adolescence.

In books and barns, I came to better know myself, and eventually, I learned to love and be kind to that self. At CORRAL, this is our goal. That our girls feel safe, that they feel seen, and that they learn to build strong relationships with themselves and with others.  

Unfortunately, our girls and the thousands like them, face major roadblocks to finding friendships in books and barns. The equestrian world is wildly cost-prohibitive and white. Children and teen literature, while less cost-prohibitive, are equally white. According to an article from Harvard Ed Magazine, multicultural content accounts for only 13% of children’s literature, and only 7% of children’s literature is created by people of color. 

Identifying with characters is crucial for developing a love of reading. As a reader, when I “saw myself” in a story, it was thrilling. I wasn’t passively watching the adventure, I was embedded in the action. When I saw “my” character falter, I learned from their mistakes. When they overcame the odds, my chest swelled with pride. The stories I read as a young woman acted as a mirror to my own life, where I could hold up my thoughts and actions to check them against the characters I revered.  

But, books can act as windows as well as mirrors. Reading diverse stories is an opportunity to crawl around in the mind and experience of someone else. By stretching our imaginations, we strengthen our empathy. All people need opportunities to see themselves in stories. But all people also need to seek out stories that deepen our understanding of others. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states in her Ted Talk, “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.” 

When our girls come to CORRAL, they confront a “single story” of their lives. They face down a narrative that says poverty is inescapable or that skin color is destiny. At CORRAL, our girls take ownership of their stories. Working with the horses empowers the girls by developing their emotional intelligence, self-knowledge, and confidence. And by loving the horses, the girls build empathy for and understanding of a creature beyond themselves.

Today, as stereotypes and “us versus them” stories dominate the headlines, we encourage our community of CORRAL champions to look past those single stories. Join us in working toward a world where our girls see themselves reflected in great stories, and where the world sees and reads their many, multifaceted, and beautiful stories. 

Resources for multicultural reading and storytelling:

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CORRAL is a faith-motivated nonprofit that equips adolescent girls in high-risk situations through a long-term, holistic program of equine therapy and education.

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