Are Poor Black Parents Encouraging Their Children to Read?

Father and son reading_10111_large.jpgI can still remember the day Dick and Jane became more than pictures of two white kids chasing a dog.

I was holding the book in my hand and the pictures suddenly became words. I was so stunned, I ran all the way home to tell my mother about what seemed to me at the time to be a miracle.
My mother could not read, which was understandable because she was raised on a plantation in the South where a black person reading wasn’t as valuable as a black person picking cotton.
Still, she was happy for me. From then on, it was my routine to beat it home from school and read aloud to my mother.
Then my own children learned to read. One even became an avid reader.
But, apparently, 42 million adult Americans can’t read, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey. In Chicago, 53 percent of adults have limited literacy skills, according to Literacy Chicago.
Doomed to low-skill labor
While some of these Chicagoans are immigrants, some are people who — despite being born in one of the most powerful countries in the world — never learned how to decode letters well enough to save themselves from a lifetime of low-skill labor.
Since I was a child, sociologists, educators, and politicians have debated why so many kids — particularly urban black kids — have trouble reading.
Last week, a new report by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research concluded that reading scores for grade school students “barely budged” in 20 years, and African-American students are falling the most behind other groups in reading.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, so I am not going to blame this deplorable situation on the white man, bad teachers, poverty or — as has become popular these days — the shorter school day.
But, honestly, could it simply be that too many low-income black parents failed to cultivate the love of reading in their children?
Job application difficult
Just about everyone reading this column will be annoyed by the very question. But I’m not talking about you.
This question is meant for the thousands of young mothers and fathers who dropped out of school or maybe even graduated from high school, but can barely comprehend enough of the written word to fill out a job application.
These are the young men and women who are filling up state and federal prisons, primarily because they do not have the life skills nor the education needed to make better choices.
Source: Chicago Sun Times | MARY MITCHELL marym@suntimes.com

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