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Reading Mentors, Black Boys and Books

Reading is the new wellness for our black boys. One of the most impactful actions we can take as a community to reinforce this maxim is to encourage community members to become reading mentors, that is, to guide and otherwise contribute to the gainful progress of improving reading proficiency among the Black boy demographic. By community members I include home, community, and church; it must involve parents, grandparents, older siblings, and extended members of the family.

Indeed, it must be a village affair!

I return to the theme of black boys and grade-level reading because it is just that important. According to the Black Star Project, an action-based organization founded to close the racial academic achievement gap and based in Chicago, Illinois, large swaths of black boys are falling behind in reading test scores, especially in urban cities across the country.

Matthew Lynch, Editor of The Edvocate, a website devoted to advocating for equity in education, cites those Black Star Project findings in sounding the alarm regarding the urgency of grade-level reading among black boys. One sobering statistic, for example, reveals that 46 percent of white students are adequate readers by eighth grade compared to 17 percent of Black students.

Lynch further opines, “While it is true that Black boys often arrive in Kindergarten with inherent disadvantages, they continue to experience a ‘behind the 8-ball’ mentality as their school career progresses.”

We have known for quite some time of the achievement gap in education for Black students and their counterparts. The statistics regarding Black boys and grade-level reading, though, are ominous and alarming and that is why it is crucial we began to treat this issue with the attention it deserves.

Our most urgent action must be to create an army of reading mentors in our communities, especially considering the severe constrictions Covid-19 has placed on the education process across the board.

The goal must be proficient reading, defined by the University of New England as “proficient readers know what and when they are comprehending; they can identify their purposes for reading and identify the demands placed on them by a particular text.”

Hence, a simple program of establishing reading mentors in our families, homes and churches should be modeled thusly:

One, read out loud to a black boy from multiple genres such as fiction, poetry, history etc.

Two, have a black boy read out loud to a parent or mentor from diverse genres on their respective levels of comprehension (kindergarten, elementary etc.).

Three, the placement of age-appropriate books in cars. This step alone will reinforce the power of reading, not to mention afford multiple opportunities for enhancing comprehension.

According to ReadingRockets.Org, elementary to middle school students should be reading an average of 20 minutes per day (if not more); thus, the first two activities could be divided into 10-minute blocks.

These measures do not require a great expenditure of effort or time or cost; they simply require a degree of commitment, fostered by a concern for the education of our children.

Encouraging community members to become reading mentors is a huge step toward reversing the troubling trends in proficient reading among our black boy demographic.

Reading is the new wellness for our black boys.

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