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Reading is the New Wellness for Black Boys!

The great abolitionist and speaker Frederick Douglas once said, "It is better to build strong children than to repair broken men." If there is a period in our history as Africans in America where this adage rings loudly, it is the twenty-first century.

A boy's ability to read on a proficient level - and on a level with his peer group - is one of the most important barometers for future achievement. In fact, I submit the lack of this crucial academic earmark points to a potentially negative mental health outcome or, at the very least, a lifetime of crime.

And yet, disturbingly, our black boys are being left behind, literately and literally. A Congressional Black Caucus report on the educational plight of black young males concluded not a single state in America reported a proficiency reading rate for middle-school black boys above 20%. Let that sink in. I had to read that several times.

What are the implications of this? Mental well-being - as well as intellectual, social, civic and spiritual flourishing!

I recall sitting in a classroom one day several years ago as a substitute teacher. It was class reading time and I just so happened to have two or three black boys around me as the reading began. At least two of the boys read with great consternation; the third, I could tell, was not really reading along with the class, but was just moving his lips to make it appear he was. Initially, my heart sank for these children and tears welled within me.

It was the experience that launched my passion for black boy literacy.

Reading is as important for a kid's mental health as exercise is for the body. There is something about a lad's relationship with books, words, characters, and passages across fiction and non-fiction genres which elevates the mind and cements ambition. This is what books do! Study after study confirm it.

The publication Sage Journals concluded after a far-reaching study on black boy literacy between 1999 and 2020:

"The research indicates that black males benefit from instruction and interventions focused on discrete reading skills, supplemental reading instruction and research-based practices found to have a positive effect on reading, writing and language development."

If we are to reverse the negative trending plight of black male literacy and invest in the mental well-being of our black boys, we must inspire them to read with confidence, affirmation and imagination.

How? Making books as accessible in our homes as DVD movies is a good start!

Reading will thusly contribute mightily to a strong black child.

Reading is the new wellness for our black boys!

Pastor W. Eric Croomes is a Faith Influencer and Believers Coach.

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