African-American Boys and Reading

President Obama's 'My Brother's Keeper' Program
     Blogger Edi Campbell recently forwarded an EdWeek Article to me on Twitter called, "Urban Districts Pledge Progress for Boys of Color".   Though there is a reference that reading will be a main focal point, I didn't see a clear statement that would suggest that school libraries and teacher-librarians would be part of the implementation of this program.

     I immediately related the article to my high school in Chicago where the student body is made of 100% African-Americans students.   Could a program like this impact schools like
mine?  The article was indeed an interesting one but now I have to ask a loaded question:   Out of these schools districts that have committed to this program, how many of them have a professionally staffed librarian running the school library?  Here's my two cents on this issue:

1.  Teacher-Librarians Must Be Staffed and Administer the School Library Program Full Time
     Teacher-Librarians would definitely be a huge asset to this national program.  The challenge is motivating the kids to read.   Now we get to meat of things.   Identifying books for purchase, that will appeal to children of color.  When kids see images of themselves and their stories represented, they gravitate to those books.   This why it's also important for educators to get out of that, 'I enjoyed that book when I was their age' attitude.   It just doesn't work for today's students who are different.  Their interests are wide, very diverse and content specific.  Teacher-librarians embrace what students are interested in,  they read the same books the students are reading and they build and connect the books to the the curriculum to make lessons for meaningful.

2.  Students Are a Valuable Source for Information....LISTEN TO THEM!
     Sometimes Administrators get so wrapped up in scores and testing they miss the valuable feedback from students.  Why not rely on your school's teacher-librarian?  Teacher-Librarians are excellent conveyors of information in this area.   Why?  They have the unique of experience of working with students as they move from grade to grade.
    Librarians observe a student's development of reading habits and social/emotional growth over a long period of time.  Also, there is a trusting element that is sometimes overlooked.  When students visit their school's library media center, they enter into a 'worry' free environment where their opinion is celebrated and the atmosphere is devoid of the emphasis of testing.

2.  Financially Support the Staffing and Program Administration of the School Library Program
     Dr.  Keith Curry Lance has stated this over and over again.   Libraries must be supported financially and run by professionally trained library staff.  I also want to be very clear about the trained staff statement:  School librarians must hold either an endorsement or Masters Degree in Library Information Science.  School districts can't be cheap and substitute these trained content specialists for paraprofessionals, library aides or volunteers.

     Lance's latest study focuses directly on the school building level and the different types of school library staff and the impact that make on student achievement.  Read the report here:

     Lance also reported the impact of poverty and compared the staffing in wealthier school districts with school districts that have students who were eligible for the Free and Reduced-Cost meals. (Please note, this is a generally accepted indicator of poverty in education)   An indicator of poverty with poverty utilized as a control variable, both endorsed librarians had a higher, positive and statistically significant correlations with reading scores than non-certified librarians.
Source:  "Change in School Librarian Staffing Linked with Change in CSAP Reading Performance, 2005 to 2011. (Lance, 2012)
Watch Dr. Stephen Krashen's passionate presentation at the  Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education meeting last February.

3.  Hire Teacher-Librarians That Have Had Cultural Competency Training
     Today's Teacher-Librarian must be knowledgeable and respectful of their student's culture, social and academic specific needs.   Having and understanding this valuable information will greatly assist them as they administer library programs that are equitable for use of all students.  The inability to have these key components in place will be a disservice to the students.   Period.

     Last March, YALSA President Shannon Peterson moderated a webinar featuring Kafi Kumasi and Vanessa Irvin Morris to discuss recommendations from The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report to improve cultural competencies in libraries.   During their lively and informative discussion, they discussed the role that cultural competencies play and will continue to play in Young Adult Teen Library Services.  I strongly suggest all school librarians and district stakeholders watch this webinar posted below.

4.  Greater Presence of African-American Males in K-12 Education
     I have worked at the elementary and high school levels throughout my career in Chicago Public Schools.  One thing that upper level administrators lose focus on is the impact African-American male teachers make on students of color.  There's no denying this, it's a winning solution because this is another way of closing the cultural gap that often takes place in schools.   

     Wouldn't it be great if there was a recruitment drive to encourage African-American males to earn MLIS degrees and serve their communities as teacher-librarians? Credential librarians of color still make up a small percentage of the overall librarianship workforce.  Industry leaders hope to change that as the nation's changing demographics continue to make its mark, and the field experiences a heavy wave of retirements.   Schools can do their part in supporting the recruitment and retention.

          Dr. Dawn Tafari, is a member of the clinical faculty in the Education Department at Winston-Salem State University which has created a support network for black male teachers.  "It's important for black children to have a relationship with a teacher who has experienced some of the things they have experienced," explains Dr. Tafari. "Especially in our urban areas, a lot of black boys don't see successful black males and who have successfully navigated the K-12 system themselves, then that can help to be a motivation."  I see the results of this everyday.  My school is blessed to have a strong black male presence and the their impact results in my students graduating and transitioning into higher education and society.

I hope this post was informative and makes you think about the strong impact of school libraries and librarians in the lives of today's youth.  I leave you now with this quote from one of my heroes:

Donation from DaBook Joint 
"The better the school library, the higher the reading scores"
Dr. Stephen Krashen
Feb., 2014 Presentation:  LAUSD Board Meeting

Urban Districts Pledge Progress for Boys of Color (Superville, 2014) EdWeek Online., via @educationweek

Change in School Librarian Staffing Linked with Change in CSAP  Reading Performance, 2005 to 2011. (Lance, 2012)

Increasing African American Male Teachers in Public Schools Benefits All Students
(Mosley, 2014) 

LIS Cultural Competency Training. Slideshare Presentation.   (Mestre, 2011) 

Hiring the Next Wave of Multicultural Librarians (Linton, 2013)

Dr. Stephen Krashen defends libraries at LAUSD Board Meeting

What's Next for Teen Services?: Cultural Competencies

1 comment:

  1. I too am from Chicago and I constantly see the need for more male teachers, more male librarians, and more culturally aware people around these young men in every capacity. These boys respond when approached the right way. Knowing that someone gives more than lip service to their unique issues, needs and selves goes a long way. Especially your point about LISTENING to the students. They know what they need, know what they are missing. They need someone in authority to listen.