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April 1, 2019
Vol. 76
No. 7

Relevant Read / Linking Literacy to Their Lives

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Instructional Strategies
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A Walk in Their Kicks: Literacy, Identity, and the Schooling of Young Black Males by Aaron M. Johnson(Teachers College Press, 2018)
Many black boys face a dual threat to reaching their full potential, Aaron M. Johnson writes. They grow up in a society in which they are routinely made to feel devalued, and they are disenfranchised by schools, which often fail to accommodate—or even tolerate—their unique experiences and needs.
For Johnson, an associate superintendent in the Farmington, Michigan, school district, a key step toward helping black boys out of this cycle is refocusing on their literacy development with an emphasis on their sociocultural needs. When linked to race and socialization, he says, "literacy has the potential to save lives and help Black boys take possession of their minds."
At the core of his book, accordingly, is a Black Male Literacy Paradigm, designed to help educators connect literacy instruction to black males' lived experiences and values. The components include developing richer relationships with students; selecting relevant texts; giving students opportunities to experience "flow" in their work; and striving to better understand their specific literacy behaviors and how to bridge these to school expectations.
To affirm black boys' identities as valued learners, Johnson argues, educators must see literacy not as a static, "one-dimensional" act of decoding texts, but rather as a dynamic sociocultural process. This can make all the difference in their school trajectories.

Podcasts on Race, Justice, and Education—check them out!

Serial, Season 3: Follows the Cleveland, Ohio, juvenile and adult court systems

NPR's Code Switch: Frank talk about race and identity

Seeing White: An exploration of "whiteness"

Teaching Hard History (from Teaching Tolerance): An in-depth look at what educators should know about slavery's impact

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