Improving Literacy for Black Students Must Be #1 on Our Christmas Wish List!

According to Forbes, on national tests last year, only 18 percent of Black 4th-graders scored proficient or above in reading; the figure for white 4th-graders was 45 percent. For 8th graders, the percentages were 15 and 42 percent. This suggests reading instruction in public schools is the reason for Black and brown student failure, but I disagree.

The lack of equitable practices, inclusive materials, and diverse curricula are the problem. For decades, Black and brown children have been compared to or ranked against white children. Data collected from high stakes assessments have proven to have biases. This also connects to the ways Black and brown students receive instruction on building literacy skills and how teachers are prepared to engage them. 

Reading instructional practices is a huge factor; however, the article fails to address the importance of representation in who is teaching Black and brown students and who is preparing the teachers who will stand before them. 

Representation matters in teaching literacy to Black and brown students. 

The article states, reading scores for Black, Hispanic, and low-income students has been so low for so long, and efforts to raise them have been so fruitless, that many have come to simply accept them. 

Cultural equity and inclusion matters in how we see ourselves and what we are told about us. Also, engagement matters, especially where youth literacy is concerned.

Dr. Khalil White developed The Little Brother & Little Sister book series combining rhymes, humor, cultural identity, and relatability to fully engage young Black readers. We need public school leaders across the nation seeking Black and brown ed leaders 

The books affirm readers’ self-esteem, while building their literacy skills. Readers are Leaders, but unfortunately many literacy programs in public schools don’t reflect Black and brown students as readers who lead. 

Based on testimony from the article, when Black and brown students get to high school, they may not know basic facts like the difference between a city and a state, or what the American Revolution was—not because they can’t learn those things, but because no one has taught them.

Too many Black and brown students are grade levels behind in content they need to know and show mastery in for success. It’s the connection to how teachers are being trained to prepare Black and brown students to be great readers. 

Training teachers with materials that don’t reflect them or the Black and brown students they are serving makes materials more challenging to connect with for students. Regardless of which route teachers are taking to receive training or professional development in literacy, there is a lack of diversity amongst the racial identity in the materials. 

The elephant in the room regarding educational outcomes for Black and brown children is racial oppression that heavily influences policy, assessments, curriculum, and pedagogy that impacts literacy. 

All the reason why, improving the educational outcomes for Black students begins with having literacy #1 on the list of educational demands as we continue working for better educational outcomes. 

Dr. Khalil White: Dr. White is a Morehouse graduate, educator and author in California . His resources have been proven to work well with Black and brown students in West Coast.


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