This is my analogy and angst why after so many years of getting to the bottom of reading awareness in our communities, our young boys are STILL lagging behind the national norm of realizing why reading is essential.
Recently I moderated a family literacy forum in Miami detailing and addressing problematic issues concerning the need for families to read together, and the disturbing reality that boys are not reading as much as girls. Inasmuch as others will want you to believe that time has given all of the above changes to improve, the bottom is dropping lower and lower with today’s heavy grip on non-compliance in our academic communities with assessment testing not improving the raising reading levels. I’m more than perplexed and quite agitated because of the state of Black America when it comes to disappearing acts of some of our men, and the inability of our young boys not to be caught up in the vicious vices of sin. Perhaps the biggest disconnection on the familial landscape today is and isn’t going on in homes and what’s being embraced in society in lieu of spirituality and ‘thus sayeth the Lord’. From my vantage point researching this phenomenon I have statistics to corroborate the fact that our boys are not being served on one end and the other there’s no passion to coddle books. Am I perturbed? You betcha!
The publishing industry has not turned a blind eye to this, believe it or not. They want their dollars signs to reach far in our communities for reading to give them more of a boon for what urban fiction is doing otherwise. What are they doing? They are hawking more gory and gross books to appeal to an elusive market in their eye sights – young boys…many of whom would rather go to the video arcade than crack open ‘Charlotte’s Web’. I spoke to one industry veteran who responded to my question of why the thrust in this direction and was told, “There’s a sort of movement in mainstream circles in books that have more kid appeal, especially when it comes to boys. It’s a shift away from the homelier books we all grew up with”. Part of my research for my forum centered around tracking data from reading habits of boys and girls, ages 10 thru 15 two years between the years 2001 to 2007, and the results are eye-popping! I found in many instances that our public school systems were fraught with many issues that took away from good educational practices, i.e., overcrowding, juvenile delinquency, students coming from poor familial backgrounds with no emphasis on reading, and in other cases, just poor academic curricula. All of this does nothing to facilitate children acquiring motivational needs to address the need to read.
I looked too, no further than my own household and assessed the reading habits of my grandchildren and their friends, and it dawned on me that I could be doing better to help them. I’ve been reprimanded by my grown children that I’m too easy and that I let them get away with murder! In an age when the internet is pulling many away from books, boys in particular spend more time than girls do on computers and video gaming, and it’s alarming how much of a pull we have just trying to get them to read some of the same stuff found in books. One of my students told me to “get with the program” and embrace new technology for the humanities, reading notwithstanding. With all of this said, are there any parents, educators, and concerned citizens that can understand my plight? What are your opinions on why our boys are not reading? Does it mean that we are failures in our attempts to keep books, libraries and other mediums from becoming passé?