3 Ways We Can Stop Making Black Boys Hate Reading

Too many of our Black boys hate reading.

It’s like a book was talking about their momma’s edges, and in return Black boys boycotted reading pages with words on them. Too many do not take pleasure in holding the spine of a book in their palms, being engulfed in a character’s triumph and struggle. They do not have an infatuation with smelling a new book like it’s a greased-up jumbo slice pizza, dog-earring a page they cannot wait to get back to, accidentally missing a meal because they were too deep within a plot of a story, straining their eyes trying to read under their bed sheets past midnight.

And it’s our fault: Educators and Parents.

Here are three things we can do to stop making Black boys hate reading:

1. Disassociate Reading With Whiteness

Marley Dias’ recent campaign to collect over 1,000 books with Black girls as the protagonist was the greatest thing of 2016, and landed her a book deal in 2017. She was tired of reading about “White boys and their dogs.” Black boys are also tired of reading about White boys and their dogs. 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.” Black boys need to read about Black boys. They need to see young, male, Black protagonists with depth and complexity. Black male characters have to live in books as vampires and athletes and wizards and explorers and detectives and scientists and nerds and bullies and super heroes, because Black boys are not one-dimensional.

2. Model Habits of Avid Readers

Black boys need strong examples (plural) of what it means to be a reader. They need to see their parents reading. They also need to see their teachers reading for enjoyment, not just books they assign to students. Consistently. If no adults close to them read, why would they read? Children mimic adult behavior. If Black boys do not see us reading, we are messaging that it is unessential to our lives. Adults also have to talk about what they’re reading to kids. Say what life lessons you’ve learned from a book, how you identify with a character, what you loved. Tell them who you want to give the book to next, and what the next book is on your reading list. Then ask, “What do you like about what you’re reading?” instead of “Have you been reading?” We have to be so consistent that we can then assume reading is already taking place.

Teachers have to refrain from taking 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.

3. Do Not Use Reading As a Method of Oppression

Reading a book is not a punishment. It is not a component of your behavior system. Teachers have to refrain from taking 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. Do not use students reading silently at their desk as a way to manage behavior. As adults, we do not pick up books and begin reading as a strategy to control ourselves; we use books to enhance our understanding of the world, or to briefly reside in a fictional one.

We can mold Black boys into being life-long readers, but we have to stop creating the barriers that prevent it.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  4 comments for “3 Ways We Can Stop Making Black Boys Hate Reading

  1. March 15, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    I think parent should spend more time reading with their son, boys will love to read, if parents will start reading the books they love, even if they have read it many times. Spend more time with them, make library, make part of weekly outing to a book store, or library.

  2. Robert Lee Johnson
    March 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Spend time with your children by reading to them at an early age. I did it with my son who is now 34 years old and he is doing it with his children, twin girls that are seven years old. My mother read to me and my brothers when I was a child.My father always had an abundance of books that were at our disposal. My stepfather was a voracious reader of technical journals. Do not limit yourself to just children’s books, but the classics. Being exposed to fine literature is important Black children must know who Olivia Butler , Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, James Baldwin , Nikki Giovanni, Sonya Sanchez and so many more exciting authors are and why they wrote what they wrote.A book that I would suggest with more than a small amount of bias is “Notable Southern Californians in Black History”.

  3. Robert Lee Johnson
    March 21, 2017 at 2:59 am

    Spend time with your children by reading to them at an early age. I did it with my son who is now 34 years old and he is doing it with his children, twin girls that are seven years old. My mother read to me and my brothers when I was a child. My father always had an abundance of books that were at our disposal. My stepfather was a voracious reader of technical journals . He was an aerospace engineer who worked on the boing 747 and the space shuttle. Do not limit yourself to just children’s books.(. I do recommend comic books) but the classics. Being exposed to find literature is important. Black children must know who Octavia Butler, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Sonya Sanchez and so many, many more exciting authors are and why they write what they write. A book that I would suggest with more than a small amount of bias is “Notable Southern Californians in Black History”….

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