I recently reviewed my son’s school ‘report card’, which is prepared by the school district to keep parents apprised of the school’s academic standing. I was dismayed to read that, on his campus, although African Americans comprise 48% of the school’s population, only 41% are reading on their grade-level. That’s compared to 71% of their white peers and 67% of their Asian peers.
This is not a new phenomenon; in fact, this is a trend that’s been happening nationwide since mid-nineteenth century. Many scholars have given their summaries as to why our children continue to lag behind their peers in reading scores, citing issues such as socio-economic standing, single-parent households, and the inherent inequities in how reading (and other) tests are conducted.
We simply must move past the excuses as to why our children are not measuring up to reading standards. We now know that if they aren’t reading on their grade-level by fourth-grade, their chances of completing college are greatly reduced.
We can no longer accept the implausible excuse that ‘everybody doesn’t like to read’!
Frederick Douglas was spot on when he opined, It is better to raise strong children than to repair broken men.
Here are a few tips we can adopt to change reading outcomes for our children.
Establish a Reading Time
Studies indicate that the most intellectually-stimulating after-school time for elementary-age children is the period immediately following school dismissal. When you pick up your child from school or when they walk through the door at home, their receptivity levels are at their peak.
Reasons for this vary and include that children’s brain waves are most receptive during this time and they are excited about sharing what they’ve learned – and they relish sharing that learning! This is a great time to grab a book and have them practice reading for ten minutes.
There is a very short period in life for our children (our boys especially) to maximize their reading capacity. If our children are not reading on their grade-level by fourth-grade, they face a host of personal and social barriers that can potentially block their upward mobility. That said, books should be introduced as early as kindergarten. In fact, some studies confirm that, even while in the mother’s womb, a child benefits from a parent reading to them.
Make it a Family Ritual
One great motivating way to get kids to read is to make it a family affair. Even if you are a single-parent, kids will make great strides in hearing you read to them and vice versa. Invite extended family members to do likewise if the child is in their care for long periods of time. Make sure the child has a book in their back-pack at all time.
Read While Driving
Let’s face it. In our society, most of our time is spent away from the home, with parenting duties, church commitments, social activities etc. Take advantage of the time on the road if you have young children. Make sure a book stays in the car. When on the road, listen to your child read. One thing I did when my son was in early elementary was to have him count things as we drove down the road – light poles, passing cars, buildings etc. This also helps to fortify a child’s reading proficiency.
If we move past our excuses as parents, our children will become excellent readers!
Support our literacy improvement program The Kusoma Project and help us get one million books in front of black boys! Donate at www.pastorwericcroomes.com