America Reads

Did you know there is a literacy crisis in Baltimore City? According to the 2016 PARCC Assessment, 21.6% of 3rd graders are reading below grade level, a figure that is double the State average. One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time. This is not okay.

That’s why I signed up for Reading Partners, an organization that collaborates with schools to bring in volunteers to address the reading crisis. It’s not a simple “read a book program”- it is a highly structured and personalized set of goals that address the student’s reading needs – phonological pronunciation of sounds, reading comprehension, fluency, and more. I will be volunteering with Robert Coleman Elementary School every week, and I could not be more excited!

For children to have equal access to opportunities and education, they need to be able to read well, and this learning happens at a very young age. Most of the kids I will be working with are in Kindergarten to 2nd grade. As an activist, there is a lot of work done around about trying to reduce crime, poverty, addiction, homelessness, police brutality, all of which are important, but helping a child learn to read so they can make better decisions for themselves and their community is an absolutely essential key to these problems, the student’s freedom, and to our collective liberation.

“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.” – Malcolm X

Did you know that Malcolm X taught himself how to read while he was in prison? Did you know that Frederick Douglass revealed that reading speeches by English politicians produced in him a deep love of liberty and hatred of oppression? Learning to read is a tangible and concrete act of activism because it instills in us the ability to navigate, reflect, and respond critically to the world around us. It is a basic skill that many of us take for granted, but remember, you weren’t born being able to read! Someone, or many people, taught you and showed you how.

Check out this excerpt of Malcolm X’s autobiography, where he details his journey of self-education while in prison:

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