Regarding the Nov. 4 Point of View piece “UNC scandal: Why do we fail to teach so many black males to read?”: I don’t know what’s going on in the school systems, but as a member of the Literacy Council of Wake County I do know what’s going on once children drop out or even graduate without knowing how to read. Many of them show up at area literacy councils unable to comprehend basic ideas written on paper. They can’t find jobs, can’t understand directions and can’t read to their children. Because they can’t get jobs, their ability to earn money is impaired, and that can fast-track them to a life of crime, leading ultimately to our prison system.
For this reason, the Literacy Council of Wake County established a Juvenile Literacy Center five years ago at the Wake County Courthouse where, unfortunately, those former public school students visit often. The mostly 15- and 16-year- old kids were either kicked out or dropped out of school due to behavior problems. Without intervention, they quickly filter right into our local prison. If you talk to them, you’ll find they couldn’t follow what was being taught in school and simply gave up. But they are eager to learn and only need someone to give them some much-needed attention.
The results of this intervention have been staggering, with more than 70 percent increasing their reading levels within six months. If only we had started earlier.
And it’s an inter-generational problem. When parents can’t read and write, they can’t possibly support their children’s education. Eventually, the pattern is repeated, because without support from home, a child is nearly guaranteed to follow down the same depressing path as his parents.
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We are committed to helping these people turn their lives around by teaching comprehensive lessons and life skills. But something needs to happen at the elementary level to stop the cycle. We need more focus on the parents of these struggling children to show them how to be their child’s first teacher and provide the best chance at success in school. It’s not up to just the school systems and their parents; it’s all of our responsibility to ensure these families are receiving the necessary skills so their whole family has a chance at success.
If we can just break the cycle, surely we will see the positive effects on our neighborhoods and society as a whole. What a worthwhile investment that would be.
Executive director, Literacy Council of Wake County
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.