We Want to be the City of Literacy

By Dr. Jeanne Baynes The Black Lens Contributor

Summer is here, and that means the Summer Reading Challenge is underway for parents and the local libraries.

Summer is a time for outdoor fun, vacations, and a break from the daily school routine, but it’s also important to keep your children’s minds active. There are many advantages to keeping your children engaged in reading during the summer months and avoiding the “summer slide,” or a dip in their educational learning.

We believe summer reading is fun for all ages – but it is also vitally important. Data shows summer reading can help prevent “summer slide,” The loss of knowledge and skills many students suffer over the long break between school years. Data also shows teens who read frequently report less anxiety and depression than infrequent readers.

We believe we can be part of the solution for our students – and so can you. We encourage the adults of our community to join in and model reading to our children. We want to be the “City of Literature,” we want to be a “City of Literacy.”

Literacy empowers and liberates people. Beyond its importance as part of the right to education, literacy improves lives by expanding capabilities which in turn reduces poverty, increases participation in the labor market and has positive effects on health and sustainable development.

Through written language, we convey beliefs, record knowledge, and explore our common humanity. Alphabets may be different around the world, but literacy—that core ability to make sense of the written word—is cherished across all cultures and traditions sense of the written word—is cherished across all cultures and traditions.

“Creating the concept and system of reading is one of humankind’s greatest intellectual achievements. Reading and writing magnify our capacity to learn, which is the competitive advantage of our species and the very foundation of human civilization. When a child learns to read, she unlocks and accelerates an expanding process of re-forming her self-identity and of enacting her will within the world. What more can you give her? To read is to better understand, and to understand is the greatest gift of being human.”

Teachers and parents should read books with characters of different cultures, races, religions, genders, and other identities. The discussions and activities will help teach students to better understand themselves, each other, and the people in our increasingly diverse society.

Teachers and parents should select books that reflect the diversity of people and expose students to cultures, perspectives, and experiences other than their own. With this in mind, we have curated a list of books by authors that we highly recommend, with a particular emphasis on the diversity that exists within the Black community.

Summer reading offers kids the chance to be in control of what they read, instead of reading as an assignment. Graphic novels, manga, magazines – they all count as reading. That freedom to choose makes reading fun – a huge motivator to keep kids wanting to read in the future.

Summer Reading Club is Spokane Public Library’s free, annual program to keep kids learning over the summer from June 1 – August 31. There are lots of ways to participate! Pick up a copy of our Summer Reading magazines for kids and teens at the library. Attend a free event.

Creating fun and personally relevant reading experiences that lead children to read after school and during the summer is the key to improving literacy rates among black children. Educators and parents must spend more time asking themselves how to help children identify as readers instead of creating test prep regimens.

Schools must move away from a deficit model that blames black children toward an asset-based approach that acknowledges who children are and what’s important to them. Creating nurturing learning environments will lead more black children to say, “I’m a reader.”

Identifying as a reader is the foundation of reading proficiency and lifelong reading.