Black boys not reading on grade level is more than taboo; it’s terrible news for our culture. A lack of literacy proficiency is a leading reason why Black boys become Black men in jail cells. It’s real! Over the last decade, we have seen organizations such as Real Dads Read help increase literacy rate of Black boys as literacy is a common factor impacting the numbers of Black males in the prison system.
But there is a solution!
It’s not a secret either. Fathers Incorporated is one of several solutions in the Metro Atlanta area that is working to get Black boys engaged in reading and reading on grade level. “We have to start with the basics which is getting Black dads and males to the table,” says CEO Kenneth Braswell. The work starts with our acknowledgment that Black boys need us active in their lives. Most importantly, they need to see us modeling positive actions such as reading.
Black fathers can help increase literacy rates for Black boys!
Let’s set the record straight. Black fathers are involved. In fact, Fathers Inc. engages hundreds of Black fathers in cities across the United States. So if Fathers Inc. can do it, why can’t schools? It’s a valid question we must ask. I’ve seen over the last decade the positive impact of Black male engagement in schools. This is why the work of Father’s Inc is not only innovative but helps increase literacy scores for Black boys. Braswell is leading a strong movement with Black males who are doing the work of showing Black boys the importance of being able to read.
There are Black boys who are not on grade level because we have failed them. So why would we then take away Reading classes in Georgia middle school?
School districts in Georgia are no longer offering Reading as a class. If we know Black boys are several grade levels behind in reading, why don’t we have all hands on deck for reading support in schools? Schools are aware that Black boys are struggling with reading and reaching the desired Lexile levels. That’s why we can’t solely rely on the school to lift the heavy load of getting Black boys on reading level.
Fathers Inc. is only one solution to the problem. Our work is centered on engaging Black fathers and Black males in the process of improving the literacy rates of Black boys in school, but our work isn’t centered in schools. Most recently, the organization helped bring hundreds of Black fathers and males into schools for Real Men Read initiatives.
The key to success is bridging the gap between schools and Black males. Since a lot of Black males didn’t have good experiences in schools, the work of Fathers Inc. isn’t confined to the school walls. In fact, Fathers Inc. CEO, Kenneth Braswell, has forged partnerships with barbershops, libraries, and recreation centers in order to help turnaround the literacy rates for Black boys.
“It’s okay to put down the basketball, football, or video game controller to read a book!”
Focusing on Black fathers helps to remove the myths that Black boys don’t have positive role models and male figures encouraging them to read at home. Schools traditionally discount and discredit the Black father. The work of Father Inc. helps to make reading not just fun but a foundational skill that Black boys need to survive.
Black boys have been systematically influenced to believe they can’t be successful. When I ask my Black boys what they want to be, the irony is that they want to be “rappers or ball players.” However, they don’t realize the balance of talent and literacy. I often tell my students, don’t let prison cells be the motivation needed for you to take literacy serious! I also realize I cannot be the only male voice they hear reaffirming to them that it’s okay to be smart. Schools can’t do this work alone either. This is why Fathers Inc is a solid blueprint for success with getting Black fathers and more Black males engaged in turning about literacy rates for Black boys.
Engaging Black Fathers in Literacy Begins With . . .
- Effective communication
- Consistent partnership
- Relatable connections to real-world situations
To learn more about how Black fathers can be engaged in increasing literacy rates for Black boys or to partner with Father Inc., visit our website here.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.