When I was an undergraduate student at Lincoln University, I had a dream of re-framing Black History Month. In that dream, each week would focus on a theme that celebrated the achievements of African people throughout the world. After spending three years in South Africa, my family and I returned to America. With my two sons getting older, I saw a pressing need for these two boys to understand who they are as people of African descent. Thus, I would revisit the idea from my college days.
In the current state of America, where the president verbally attacks the identity, culture, and homeland of people of African Descent, the aforementioned need became even more pressing. In this climate, teaching them about who they are, what they can potentially achieve, and how they can contribute to their community is extremely important. I wanted to teach my sons that they come from a people who were builders of strong families and societies, leaders who transformed unjust societies, innovators who made the world better, and artists who made the world more beautiful. Instead of teaching my sons in isolation, I thought it would be great if other families would read similar books to their children. The Reading Renaissance Campaign was born out of this desire.
For Black History Month, we as parents, grandparents, relatives, community members and educators should engage the young people in our lives with the powerful tools of books. We are asking adults to read five books a week to children. For each week in Black History Month we are asking adults to read books on the following themes: Africana History and Culture; Heroes in Africana history; Creativity & Innovation; and Family & Community. Reading children books in these themes will provide children with a holistic study of people of African descent.
The campaign also has four purposes that serve as the foundation for the literacy work we will engage in.
First, we seek to use Black History Month as a platform to encourage children to develop a love of reading. The development of loving to read can begin by exposing children to books that are centered on their interests. This requires us to talk and listen to the children in our lives and provide them with the books that speak to the aforementioned. Providing children with interest-based books has the potential to spark their love of reading.
Second, we seek to expose children to history and achievements of people of African descent. These types of books provide children with the opportunity to learn about the achievements, innovations, and general experiences of people of African descent. Learning about the aforementioned allows children to develop the belief that they, too, can make a contribution to the world.
Third, we seek to encourage children of African descent to see reading as an essential tool for them to develop their dreams. In the history of Africana people, whether ancient or contemporary times, great women and men who pursued their dreams committed themselves to the reading. By reading, children have the potential to develop ideas that can assist in the development of a better world.
Fourth, I understand it is not enough for us to read to our children in isolation. The campaign encourages parents, community members and educators to “Meet-Up and Read-Up.” These “Meet-Up Read-Up” events can be small gatherings hosted in someone’s home or large gatherings hosted in a public space like a library. However, the purpose of the gathering is to read to children and have them pose questions about the books, which hopefully will inspire the children to think new ideas.
I celebrate joining forces with individuals and organizations engaging in the work of enabling children to developing and advancing their dreams.
In conclusion, it is our vision for the campaign to spark a movement where families and communities engage in the beautiful act of reading. It is our vision that engaging in the act of reading can inspire children to imagine possibilities both seen and unseen. It is our vision for those children to develop dreams where they lived fulfilled lives while engaging in active citizenship to make their communities and world better.
(A Philadelphia native, Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-EL graduated from University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education with a PhD in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Griffin-EL worked as a leadership trainer for Pittsburgh Public Schools and academic at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. He is currently the founder of The Young Dreamers Book Club, which provides parents with information that support in the holistic development of children. Out of this club, Dr. Griffin-EL developed The Reading Renaissance Campaign that seeks to inspire families of African descent to read books about various themes relating to Black History Month.)
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