Reading skills are essential to success

Melvin B. Miller | 4/17/2014, 11:13 a.m.

Research by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the University of Wisconsin revealed that only 3 percent of books published last year had black characters and only 2 percent of the writers were black. The industry’s response to the data is that black books just don’t sell. Nonetheless, it has been found that the absence of characters in children’s literature that look like the blacks learning to read is discouraging to them.

Educators agree that the level of students’ reading ability is a reliable indicator of their prospective academic success. In fact, students have to be on track to attain the appropriate level of reading proficiency by the end of the third grade. By the fourth grade students have to be ready to use their reading ability to learn other subjects.

Unfortunately, 80 percent of low-income fourth graders, as well as 49 percent of those with higher income, are not proficient in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation predicts that if this deficiency continues, the U.S. will face a shortage of 1.5 million workers with college degrees by 2020. Another 6 million will lack the academic credentials to be employable.

The objective of reading is to acquire essential information and to stimulate the imagination to soar. Two books by local authors do just that. “I Got Bank” by Teri Williams, president of OneUnited Bank, is a child’s primer on the importance of saving and the function of the banking system from the customer’s perspective. “I Got Bank” recounts the once important rite of passage of a child opening his first bank account.

“Nia & the Whole Wide World” by Kamaya Prince Thompson takes the reader on Nia’s trip to China. For a black child who has never traveled far beyond the borders of his or her turf, this is an adventure. If Nia can do it, so can the reader, at least in the unfettered expanses of the mind.

To be able to read proficiently is a blessing which must absolutely be provided to all the children.