“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
To justify and maintain the status quo, our ancestors were denied access to reading materials: punishment sometimes death to those who tried to teach another slaves to read. Juneteenth is a glaring example of slavery lasting an additional two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It took union soldiers arriving in Texas on June 19, 1865 to announce that they were officially free. Texas slaves did not get the memo nor could they have even read it.
That’s why March being National Reading Month is so important; started by the National Education Association in 1998, the idea was to get children excited about reading. We owe it to our children, especially; the next wave of educators, scholars and historians to once again get excited about book reading.
Here are a few ways to Bring back Book time in your own homes.
Start literacy at home
Do your children see you reading? Gone are the days of daily newspapers. Nnow, we get our news as phone updates, favorite websites, and 24-hour news stations. The pandemic may have shut down access to the public library, but that well-known establishment did big business bringing books to our doorsteps.
Get “caught” reading a book. Leave a new book in the living room with a bookmark; talk about the author or share the storyline; create curiosity about the lives hidden between the covers of a novel. Show your children that hard-working parents are still life-long readers who enjoy turning the page.
Establish family reading time. If you are already doing the occasional bedtime story, expand it. Let the little ones tell you the stories, recalling character names and getting the sequence of events. Teachers will thank you when you send a child to school full of “readiness”.
Do you have a “time for homework” in your house? Even if your children claim they did it at school, how about certain evenings every week, where television and social media get replaced by an hour of reading? Ask them to summarize, and increase critical thinking. Teachers will thank you when you send a child to school prepared for their next level thinking.
Browse the used booksellers and resale shops. If there is a bookstore near you, check the sales table. Use online coupons or promo codes if you want something new. Public libraries are re-opening.
Know the new Black authors
Remember reading “Native Son,” “Black Boy” or “A Raisin in the Sun” as a literature assignment when you were in school? Perhaps you’ve heard about Jason Reynolds, Octavia Butler and Sharon Draper. Maybe you have books by Sharon Flake, Jacqueline Woodson, or Christopher Paul Curtis. We support our classic and new African American authors by spreading the love of reading.
For your little ones, consider web articles such as the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s “30 Books That Inspire Black Boys to Create and Build Their Dreams.” Little faces light up when they see themselves. You can also find authors and titles that embrace the bi-racial child and their experiences. Make it a fun, family project and start a small home library.
If you have older students, explore the Young Adult genre. Some of the stories are edgy, there may be the odd bit of language, and the themes are often snatched from the headlines. However, this is the world of our 13- to 18-year-olds. One source is Goodread’s “Best African American Young Adult Novels.”
Love book time again!