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By David L. Craig, Ed.D.


Nationwide (BlackNews.com) -- A new school year approaches. As we start this new school year, I ask, how are you preparing your children for their return? Studies have shown an alarming number of African American children are low achieving. Statistically, and as verified by the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, less than 20% of Black students grades 4 through 8 are reaching proficiency. The remaining demonstrate poor performance in virtually all core subject areas-reading, writing, math and science-when test scores are compared with those students from other cultures and racial identities. And, while causes for this disparity vary, there are many ways concerned Black parents can take the initiative and jump-start the new school year.

How can we ensure our children get the most from their learning experience?

To get to the core of the matter, ask the following: what do I, as a parent, want for my child? What does my child want for himself? Which subjects are of interest to my child and why? Is this preference because your child likes a particular teacher? Could this choice have been influenced by his peers or some other factor? During the summer, has my child met her summer reading requirements (I gave my students the names of authors, books, magazines and poems to read)? Our students fall behind because we fail to prepare them.

What do you want for your child? What does your child want for himself? Do you know which subjects are of interest to your child and why they have that interest? Is it because they like the teacher? Or, because of something or someone they know? Get to know your child and what interest him/her. During the summer did you have your child read and write? Our children are behind, quite frankly because we don’t prepare them.

Why should you want your children intelligent and educated?

Is it because you want them to be excellent citizens who contribute to their community and to society? Or, is it because you want her to get a good job and be self-sufficient? Or, maybe it’s because you want them to think logically and to make intelligent decisions about their lives or eventually about your care and well-being.

Education Begins in the Home

Reading is one of the most important things you can do with your child. Your child should begin reading as early as possible. In fact, you should begin reading to your child while she is in the womb. Read daily and read to your child and have him read to you. Discuss what you are reading. Read books and articles that are of interest to your child. Take your child once a month to the public library. Get him a library card. Have him read 2-3 books each month until he is able to read more. Talk to your child’s teacher and to the librarian to find out which books are age-appropriate. Model the behavior you want to see in your child. He should see you reading. Watch news program with your child so that he can hear words. This will increase his vocabulary especially if you explain words to him. Buy him a dictionary and require him to define no less than two different words 2-3 times weekly.

Veda Jairrels, in her book “African Americans and Standardized Tests”, state that one of the reasons African Americans don’t do well on standardized tests is because they don’t read enough and they do not experience reading early. She also states that many African American parents do not understand the amount of reading a child must do to maximize their scores on standardized tests.

Our students need balance in their lives. That is, they could do much better if both parents were involved in their literacy development. Seventy percent of our families are female headed and over 80% of our elementary schools are dominated by females. That observation is not an indictment against females, but our children especially our boys can benefit from more equilibrium and stability and positive male involvement in their lives.

Know his friends. They tend to influence each other. Get to know her teachers. If they know you are committed to his educational growth they will make every effort to assist you. If possible volunteer some time at her school.

Also, student discipline should never be the ultimate responsibility of the teacher. Over the years a variety of circumstances have changed: the structure of the family, attitudes of the parent and students, expectations placed on teachers and administrators, and society in general. Each of these effect student behavior and performance.

The Dollar Store

I know you go there! I know because they must restock the shelves several times weekly. The dollar store has an excellent selection of educational items that you can use to help your child educationally. Buy your child a dictionary and a thesaurus. The dollar store has notebooks so your child can keep a daily log of his/her experiences. This is not like a diary. You want your child to learn to write as early and as often possible as well.

There are posters at the dollar store that you can use to teach your child: synonyms, homonyms, verbs, adjectives and other parts of speech. They have activity books that will assist you in helping your child in reading and writing. The dollar store has poster boards, glue and index cards you can use to make word walls. That is, you and your child can write positive words on the index cards and paste them on the poster boards so that you and your child can see and discuss them daily.

The Salvation Army Stores

If you are not, or until you are more prosperous, try the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, and other second-hand stores for school uniforms. I have gone to many of these on occasions to purchase school uniforms for my students. Children didn’t have to know they came from these places, and they didn’t! Some students often feel shame if they have to shop at the Salvation Army. They wouldn’t if you discuss your circumstances with them. In addition to clothing, they also have a multitude of books and a wide selection of educational games at a nominal price that you can purchase to help your child develop.

Teach Your Child Social Skills

As I mentioned before, discipline should not be the sole responsibility of the teacher. Teach your child how to get along with others. Teach them to share. A child who doesn’t learn to share, often have difficulty making friends. Encourage your child to make friends in the neighborhood and monitor what they do. Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities. Quite often these activities can assist in building character, satisfy interests and provide an opportunity to work with others. Teach your child to accept differing opinions and how and why he should respect the opinions of others. Tell them they don’t always have to be right. Teach them cleanliness and hygiene. Show and tell them how not to be offensive to others. Teach your kids how to deal with social networks. Quite often kids use these networks to bully other kids.

Try a church, synagogue or a mosque whatever your religious affiliation is. Even though you may not subscribe to a religious sect, these places of worship can provide assistance in your child’s social development.

Churches have been a staple of social, religious, and political activity in the African American community, literally, for centuries. Church is an excellent place to help your child develop social skills. Whether you are religious or not, send your children to a church that offers your child opportunities to listen, to read and to speak. There are a number of churches that have youth ministries that include programs for young people of all ages.

Remember to model the behavior you want to see in your child. What friends of yours do you expose your children to? Be what you want your child to be.

Mommy Why Do We Move So Much?

Many of us are renters. Many of us are unemployed and can’t pay our rent. Some of us refuse to pay rent. As a result we move a lot. This affects our children. They are required to attend new schools, subjected to new teachers, and resigned to make new friends. They are sometimes bullied, afraid and isolated. This frequent movement can cause depression and anxiety in our children. Our children need stability. When they are familiar with their surroundings, comfortable with their friends and known by their teachers they perform better. When they feel comfortable they can be taught and they are respected.


As parents, we must take the initiative and become involved in the education of our children. It is imperative that we work with others in their development. We cannot rely on the school alone to educate our children. No expert or entity should know your child as well as you do. Your child may come to school with a different personality than the one he left home with. This may or may not be positive for the learning experience he will receive. Ultimately the responsibility in educating your child relies on you, the parent. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree is a very real adage that holds truth. Try not to shift the blame for any denigrating behaviors on another tree. If you really want to know why your child behaves the way she does, simply look in your shoes.

Let’s have a good school year by being involved in the literacy development and education of your child.

David L. Craig, Ed.D. taught Middle School Math and Writing. He taught GED Preparation in Adult Education. He taught High School: English, Basic Law and Social Studies (Economics, History, Global Issues and Government). Additionally, he taught History (Africa, Middle East, American and African American), Political Science (State and Local Government), Legal Issues in Human Resources and Negotiation all at the university level. He has substantial coursework in General Education, Special Education and Reading. He is certified as a teacher and as an administrator. He is seriously concerned about the literacy development of African American children and adults. He believess that readers are truly leaders!

A 20th Letter to America