I was raised in Southwest Philadelphia on Baltimore Avenue. I attended public schools my entire life and I was a struggling reader. I was lucky to have a mom who worked in libraries and brought me home books. Even though I lived less than a block away from a library, I never liked reading and books in general. If I could write a letter with advice I’d give to my younger self, here is what I’d say:
Dear 3rd grade Nos,
Greetings from the future! I know you hate everything about reading. You get nervous when reading out loud because you stumble over words. You dislike when your teachers read you books that only show people of African descent being enslaved. You don’t enjoy reading because you do not see how it relates to your life. I know you’d rather play video games all day or play basketball with your homies. I know how you feel, but the school year is over and it’s summer break, here is some advice about how you can get into reading this summer.
First, I have a tip on how to overcome your struggle with reading. Ask your librarian to locate books about phonics. What is phonics? It is a big word for breaking words down. Learning to break down words is essential to the reading process. You know how you read in class and struggle to pronounce the words? Learning the basics of phonics will give you the power to conquer every hard word you come across!
Practice breaking down words by pronouncing ALL of the letters in the alphabet, word families, and blended sounds. Practice the basics of phonics every day and you’ll be a strong reader by the time the next school year starts.
Second, read all those books your mom bought you on the history of people of African descent. Yes, those books allow you to see people of African descent as dreamers and builders of a better world. Go to the library and check out all the books you can about famous leaders of African descent and countries throughout the African world. Write mini book reports and share them with your teachers when the school year starts.
Lastly, find books about your dreams. Ok, I know you are going to be the next Michael Jordan! So let’s start with getting books on basketball. Read about your favorite players and teams. Now, I want you to explore the books that talk about the many dreams you’d want to pursue.
Go back to the librarian and asking him/her about careers. He/she will give you books on being a doctor, lawyer, teacher, scientist, engineer, farmer, entrepreneur, artist, musician, and journalist. Read these books and learn about the different careers. Just remember you’ll have years to build and pursue your dream.
Before I let you go, Nos use you’ve got to use your summer to develop into a strong reader! You will use this skill in EVERY part of your life like reading bedtime stories to your two beautiful sons (they’re pretty amazing!).
I know this is a lot but don’t worry. I promise that you will grow into a strong reader and this will give you the power to achieve your dreams!
Nosakhere Griffin-EL, Ph.D.
Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-EL is the President of The Dreamocracy Learning Lab and Founder of The Young Dreamers’ Book Club. His work focuses on creating innovative programming, content, and initiatives to inspire children to view reading as a tool to create and build their dreams. Dr. Griffin-EL’s fundamental belief is that meeting children at their dreams is a powerful way to teach them the importance of reading. Follow him on Twitter @drgriffinel