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Countering the Black Boy Reading Crisis.

Who should be paying attention to the Black boy reading crisis? The simple answer is everyone, but not everyone is. We tend to blithely accept that the reading crisis occurring among our Black boys is a problem for the education grouping. Yet we are constantly reminded that school administrators, educators and staff are not as committed to ‘solving’ the problem of literacy as we may believe. The ‘solution’, in far too many cases, is assigning black and brown kids to special education and other remedial courses.

The truth is the Black boy reading crisis is not one that is going to be solved by the education institution; it must be tackled by our homes and communities.

Three quick points I want to make on this topic.

Understand There is a Crisis

The Black boy reading crisis is real, yet there does not appear to be an equal and opposite conversation being sparked.

Recently, the Black Star Project published findings that show just 10 percent of eighth-grade Black boys in the U.S. are considered “proficient” in reading. This is crucial, as by eighth-grade, Black boys who are not reading on grade-level proficiency are virtually guaranteed a one-way ticket to a life-time of crime via the school-to-prison pipeline.

Black boys nationally are underachieving when it comes to proficiency scores. In most major urban centers, our numbers don’t leave single digits in relation to grade-level reading expectations.

Parallel to this crisis is the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’, on which many Black boys will undoubtedly hail a first-class seat if we don’t begin to act now.

A Crisis of Consciousness

The Black boy reading crisis is a fairly complex one. That’s because it deals with a type of consciousness; thus, it says much about how Black boys feel and believe what’s possible for them.

The Black boy reading crisis is a crisis of consciousness. There is a palpable lack of a reading awareness inherent in the aforementioned statistics, because how our sons shape their identities is closely linked to their ability to read.

The irony is reading develops higher thinking, so if they fail at reading, our Black boys essentially mature in an intellectual vacuum.

We will not positively impact reading proficiency rates and reverse this reading crisis until we develop a reading consciousness among our black boys.

Eliminate Excuses

Someone once said to me, “Everybody don’t like to read”. Those are the five worst words that can come out of any black parent’s mouth. It’s the difference between equipping a child to fail or succeed, to understanding the difference between just having fun or to be seriously committed to a goal. Everybody does not like to ride roller coasters; everybody does not like to jump out of an airplane with a parachute attached. Those are things we can “not like to do” and still lead a normal life. But reading?

Not liking to read and needing to read are two distinct realities. In order to be competitive in this marketplace, a child must be literate, indeed must be well-read.

Make Books the New Normal

Books must become the new normal in our homes, churches and communities. The home that is a bastion of education, literacy and attainment is the one bereft of DVD movies and replete with an assortment of books – especially the homes in which there are Black boys!

At every juncture of the day spent outside of the education grouping, there must be a book which intersects the lives of our boys: a book in the backpack; a book at the dinner table; a book in the bedroom, a book in the car.

Boys should be introduced to books in the home at a very early age.

Together, we can solve the Black boy reading crisis.

Pastor W. Eric Croomes is a mentor, education advocate and founder of The Kusoma Project, an organization committed to helping black and brown boys develop a love for reading.

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