Reading is the passport needed to get on the train to freedom. Our goal in Gwinnett County Schools should be to turn around the many reasons why Black boys hate reading into ways that cause them to love reading.
1. Model Habits of Consistent Reading
Black boys need strong examples (plural) of what it means to be a reader.
They must see parents reading at home. They need to see their family members reading for enjoyment. Consistently. If no adults close to them are reading, then why would they read? Remember, children mimic adult behavior.
2. Disassociate Reading With Whiteness!
Well, this is a struggle teachers of color in Gwinnett County and public school districts across the Nation. It’s a struggle because we don’t have a culturally inclusive curriculum in our schools. A much needed call to action for parents and stakeholders is getting the curriculum changed.
Black boys are also extremely tired of reading about white boys and their dogs.
They are tired of being forced to only read about sports and cars. Entertainment is the not only outlet or option for our Black boys. They should not have to always read about the trials and misadventures of white people. It reinforces the myth that books are for white people, and reading is “something that only white people do.”
Furthermore, in the height of social justice movements, having Black boys reading literature that portray white culture as a “savior” only perpetuates the negative stereotype that Black boys “need to be saved!”
Black boys don’t need to be saved, they simply need better educational outcomes in Gwinnett Public Schools.
Black boys need to read about Black boys. They need to read about Black, Latinx, mixed raced families and their successes and triumphs in this country and around the world. They need to see Blacks in complex characters and roles in novels, movies and documentaries.
Most of the Black male characters are reflected as slaves, athletes, gangsters or bullies. We should be exposing our Black boys to the characters where they see themselves as vampires, wizards (like Harry Potter), explorers, detectives, scientists, nerds and super heroes because like these characters, Black boys are not one-dimensional.
3. Do Not Use Reading As a Method of Oppression
Reading a book is not a punishment. However, check the District practices for discipline. Many Black boys experience ISS and are given materials to read that overwhelm them in efforts to keep them quick and isolated. This doesn’t improve their reading abilities nor does it make them want to read more.
Reading as a consequence should not be a component of the behavior system.
School leaders in the District must stop allowing teachers to take away incentives and privileges when students misbehave, and then substituting them with reading a book.
It creates a connection between reading and pain, causing reading to be a vehicle of violence.
Stop forcing Black boys to read silently at their desk as a way to manage behavior.
Books are used to enhance our understanding of the world. It also serves a tool to build creativity and provides a place of escape from the real issues we face in our lives. Reading could be a positive outlet for Black boys!
We can mold Black boys into being life-long readers, but we have to stop creating the barriers that prevent it.