Through the Sliding Glass Door:
Nancy J. Johnson, Melanie D. Koss, Miriam Martinez
Books that serve as sliding glass doors invite readers to step into an
experience that may change them.
e are surrounded by hashtags, such as
and #ImWithHer. We see them online, in
the news, and in our Facebook feeds. They provoke
conversations at professional conferences and even
around dinner tables. What do they reveal? A desire
for change and a call to action. We put forth our own
call to action: #EmpowerTheReader. Yet, action re-
quires more than soundbites. For any action to make
a difference, we also need knowledge and reflection.
This article addresses the need for thought-
ful reflection and knowledgeable action related to
the literature teachers bring into their classrooms.
We believe in our call to #EmpowerTheReader,
and we know that teachers believe in this as well.
Commitment to the call in this hashtag acknowl-
edges that readers’ lives are multifaceted. Readers
are cultural and emotional beings. What they bring
to a book shapes what they take from it. Therefore,
it is imperative that we look closely at our students
and the literature we put into their hands—and
bring into their lives.
Over the years, educators have offered insight
that can and should support the commitment to
choose literature wisely and consider the role of the
reader as essential. Our work is shaped by the schol-
arship of Bishop, Rosenblatt, and Freire.
Bishop’s (1990) seminal article, “Mirrors, Windows,
and Sliding Glass Doors,” has a great impact on cur-
rent conversations. Her focus on how the reader sees
herself and her world through literature makes es-
sential the role of the reader. Less referenced in cur-
rent conversation is the scholarship of Rosenblatt
(1995), whose focus on the transaction between the
reader and the text also has the potential to inform
and shape this conversation. Rosenblatt reminded us
that purpose guides how and why we read, and re-
sponse is determined not only by intellectual insight
but also by readers’ emotional investment.
The work of Freire is particularly relevant to the
third component of Bishop’s (1990) metaphor, the
sliding glass door. Freire (1970) wrote about praxis,
which he defined as “reflection and action upon the
world in order to transform it” (p. 51). He noted that
when people think critically about their world, they
are poised to “intervene actively in reality…[and]
are carried along in the wake of the change” (p. 6).
We argue that when readers move through a sliding
glass door, they are changed and often empowered
to take action.
Much discussion has focused on literature as a
window and a mirror. Less attention has been paid
to literature as a sliding glass door. This article
delves into this component of Bishop’s (1990) met-
aphor and the emotional connections needed for
readers to move through this door. We begin by ex-
amining the importance of the reader and the char-
acters he or she meets. We conclude with a call to
action for teachers to consider ways in which they
The Importance of the Reader
One of our students recalled an aha experience
when reading the first few pages of The Midwife’s
Apprentice by Karen Cushman (1995). The senso-
ry description of survival in a dung heap and the
The Reading Teacher Vol. 71 No. 5 pp. 569–577 doi:10.1002/trtr.1659 © 2017 International Literacy Association
Nancy J. Johnson is a professor in the Department of
English at Western Washington University, Bellingham,
USA; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melanie D. Koss is an associate professor in the
Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Northern
Illinois University, DeKalb, USA; e-mail email@example.com.
Miriam Martinez is a professor in the Department
of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching at The
University of Texas at San Antonio, USA; e-mail