Today a Reader… Tomorrow a Leader

How many Black parents have ever visited the library with their children?

There’s an old Ysam new picture newsaying that one must be cautious when giving advice, but believe me it’s disheartening watching young people fall into a state of dereliction.
It has often been said that if you want to hide something from a Black man put it in a book; I will further expand on that by simply saying that to hide something from most Black people, just write it anywhere and leave it around.
This is not an indictment on Black people, just thoughts and suggestions.
Perhaps saying that you can hide information from most Black people by writing is too broad, but I do not think that others would summarize the statement any better than I have done. Sad as it may appear, bad as it may sound, the reality is too many of our young Black people don’t read, can’t read and won’t read.
The importance of literacy and comprehension is paramount for Black children to be successful academically, for they must possess strong skills in literacy and comprehension to compete in school and in life.
What good is reading words if you do not understand their meanings and cannot apply them in a learning environment or an intelligent and meaningful conversation?
Furthermore, if our children are not academically skilled they will not be able to compete for jobs, enroll in higher education, and will have challenges for a successful life if they cannot read or comprehend what they read.
This is the reality. Many times, whilst talking to groups of young people, I have casually mentioned that I write. It has now stopped bothering me that I am normally met with little to no response or questions about what I write [about], or where they might find it. I figured such a casual statement opens the opportunity to talk with them about the importance of reading.
As a former school teacher I am further convinced that our children do not read much, simply because they are not asked to, or expected to. The exposure to reading resources, the genres of reading material may be in a basement at home, but books need to be present and must be encouraged to read them. Even if parents and/or guardians are not strong readers this should not deter them from working to build an appreciation and respect for reading in their children.
Reading develops a mindset to gain new knowledge, allows previous knowledge relevancy, and bolsters cognitive enrichment. Parents are crucial in providing reading materials that are age, grade and cognitively appropriate.
Parents can use the free resources in their neighborhoods – public libraries, school libraries and online reading content. Instead of Facebook, Youtube, and other Social media entertainment, Black children should be reading.
Why is it that our youth can manipulate Facebook and Youtube for example, but are not at grade level in reading and math? Having free resources in our libraries and not utilizing them is tantamount to a public travesty. How many Black parents have ever visited the library with their children? Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
Our youth need to be empowered with knowledge, which will guide, empower and encourage academic and societal success. Reading will encourage the building of strong ethics, morals and unlimited mental capabilities that are positive and productive. Appreciating knowledge and the empowerment of reading is key in how Black children will grow. Ironically, Blacks were beaten and killed for learning to read; lynching occurred if Bibles were found in shacks where slaves lived.

The first books that slaves learned to read were the Bible; realizing this historical fact, I wonder if this would change the mindset and importance of reading among more Black children and families.
There are far too many Blacks in this 21st century who blame the system or the white man for their lack of success, instead of recognizing their personal lack of value for education, lack of self-respect and lack of respect for their culture.
Black families need to start embracing the knowledge that can be gained from reading. Do not hang me out to dry just yet. Perhaps after I have asked this question and made the following statement: How many of our Black families have a library?
How many fathers and mothers read to their infants and toddlers, working to build their literary skills in dialogue and conversations? Just look at the people you know, your friends or those in your very own family, how many of them actually read anything of value?
They can tell you what happened on last night’s episode of Dancing with the Stars, Orange is the New Black or Sister Wives but can’t even tell you who their MNA or City Councilor is.
Ronald Dahl, the famous British writer, poet and novelist, once said, “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” Aptly expressed sentiments with which I wholeheartedly concur.
The value of education cannot always be measured by monetary gain, accumulation of personal possessions or fancy clothes, but by gaining self-respect and self-confidence in personal abilities and talents. Education is the key to open employment doors, the ladder to help one climb out of poverty, the power to move from the ignorance of darkness into the light of understanding.
For many years I have been preaching this very same message: Black people DO NOT READ!  When and how did we get to this point? I have no immediate answer, but in the meanwhile we have work to do.
Everyday an entire wealth of information is shared and our young people grasp very little of it. What do I propose we do? Start by reading, yourself; be the example. Then talk about reading to young people, but not as punishment, or for people who are “acting white!” Give books and magazines, and other things with words in them to young people, and do that with excitement. Television has its time and place.
So, parents, expose the children to reading at an early age, and instill the value, necessity and urgency of mastering the habit. Remember that we cannot tell our children about reading when we are not practicing it ourselves. White folks read the works of our great Black minds and learn about other peoples’ cultures; we do not do the same.
In conclusion, permit me to point out a fact, which many may not be aware of; there is something waiting for many children every summer, and their parents don’t even know it’s out there. It is called the “summer slide,” and it describes what happens when young minds sit idle for three months.
Children who do not read over the summer months will lose more than two months of reading achievement.
Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of Sixth grade, children who consistently lose reading skills over the summer will be two years behind their classmates. So figure how far behind a child would be coming from a home where reading is not promoted.
In addition, the education system with its anti-Black academic curriculum is also at the root of a non-existent reading culture. It is blatantly clear that for our youth to be leaders they must first be readers, hence we have an urgent responsibility to reintroduce a reading culture. This is not an easy task, as in some cases the love for reading was killed before it was even born, while in others, parents did not feed the need to read.
Making a change is not out of range; the world would be forced a different hiding place to look, if Blacks started to put their faces in books.
Today a Reader… Tomorrow a Leader.

Aleuta—      The struggle continues.