I have been an English educator for eight years, half of my time spent in the public school. Let me get this out of the bag first: literacy is not an issue of race; it is an issue of opportunities.
Let me explain. Pastor Jeremiah Holiday and SDB board member Megan Miller both expressed concerns about proficiency in English arts, stating that 92% of African American students in the district are not proficient in English arts. Miller is quoted as saying, “We need to be proactive for all our children” and Holiday stated, “We cannot afford to continue this way. Leadership matters.”
I wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments. However, skills in English Language Arts are ones that start at home. The best school leader can do little to offset years of stunted growth. Students who are read to at home from an early age (starting as infants) excel across the board compared to students who are never or rarely read to at home. I’ll let you do the fact checking. Smaller class sizes? Mentorships? Working more with community partners? All great ideas that could help. But by the time these students are old enough to be tested on reading and other English arts skills, it’s almost too late. Reading early and often is the most time-tested and effective strategy to improve academic skills across the curriculum, not just English. School personnel are not the primary educators of students; parents are.
Parents: please read to your children! I know the problem at hand increases as the family unit continues to disintegrate as a cultural cornerstone. So churches, mentors, community members: I implore you to read as well. And none of these politically-motivated reading groups that are happening at our libraries. Just get kids to read good, quality children’s books. Leave the political propaganda in Washington.
The bottom line: children of all backgrounds need more opportunities to read and be read to.