Black Childhood Literacy


Our Planning Team at the Walker Literacy Center in Detroit

During February and March, we are taking on a particular initiative around the statistically troubling history in our community of education disparities, especially childhood literacy. It comes at no surprise to us that our community sits at the lowest data points in American education metrics. As we push for improved conditions and funding in Detroit schools, and more resources for educators, there are some things we can still do on our own.

On a national level, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 18 percent of African-American fourth-graders were proficient in reading. Their white peers, however, faired well-over twice that at 45 percent, exceeding both the national average and every other racial group except Asians.

Data Snapshot for National Reading Proficiency Levels from the 2019 NAEP

Specifically, in the state of Michigan, the NAEP data shows a relative stagnation of literacy for the African-American fourth-graders tested for the past five years. Additionally, on the NAEP reading scale of 0 to 500, “Black students had an average score that was 25 points lower than White students.” according to their Michigan Report, this is a performance gap that is not significantly different from that in 1998.

We need progress. Especially in Detroit.

In support of this campaign, we are building a library of Black children’s books to donate to local Detroit community organizations including the Walker Literacy Center and the Downtown Boxing Gym. Books depicting Black characters are essential to the positive self-esteem and identity of our children long-term. Our children deserve, just as much as any other child on this earth, to be depicted positively in the ink they learn from.

You can contribute to this cause by attending our ticketed events in February and March, or by making a direct earmarked donation that will go entirely toward purchasing books for this initiative.

Additionally, we are strongly encouraging our members, followers, and the public-at-large to volunteer for efforts to increase childhood literacy in our community. One of the easiest things you can do is read to children in your immediate and extended family, including children of friends, and also help them learn to read more challenging books above what they can read now.

Watch Our Social Media: Our planning team will be volunteering to help children read during February and March. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to catch all the action.

You can read the full Michigan Snapshot Report here, and you can also find more data on the NAEP Report Card website.