In addition to being a middle and high school English teacher, I’m also a certified literacy specialist. In my eyes, reading and writing are the cornerstone to every aspect of education and to life. Literacy is especially important for Black and Brown children who often lag behind their White counterparts in reading and writing.
According to a US News Report article entitled “U.S. Education: Still Separate and Unequal,”
By age 2, disparities already show between black and white children. Fewer black children demonstrate proficiency in development skills such as receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary, matching, early counting, math, color knowledge, numbers and shapes. While 91 percent of white children aged 3 to 5 who weren’t enrolled in kindergarten were read to by family members three or more times per week, 78 percent of black children were read to with the same frequency.
Given these disparities in early child education, you can imagine how excited I was when I woke up last Saturday morning to an invitation on Facebook to attend and possibly speak at a Literacy Expo in the Bronx the following day hosted by organizers Victor and Nicole Broushet, a husband and wife duo who are vegan chefs and co-owners and operators of The Vegan Nest. Who were these organizers of this event? What prompted them to host this expo? This is what they said:
It’s not just about education, but about the transformational power of the connectedness that forms during the intimate moments spent reading together as a family. This was the impetus behind the Literacy Expo at North Bronx Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Our aim was simple – to provide a fun, interactive and supportive space to encourage parents and caregivers to engage in, commit to, and become advocates for their children’s education. We have a friend, motivational speaker, Karen Pilgrim, who often says, “when you know better, you do better”. The Bible shows us that “knowing” comes from thoughtful study and careful examination of the word, applying these same principles to our daily life is paramount in our children’s ability to make thoughtful, sound decisions and it is our responsibility as parents, caregivers and educators to instill a desire to learn within them. We enjoyed a full day of reading fun; discussing the importance of nutrition literacy, that is the ability to read and understand the nutritional components of our food and how that informs our health decisions; the value of Christian Education in forming the character and developing the minds of our youth and the planning and preparation needed to help our children realize their academic potential and to prepare themselves for high-quality education.
We look forward to continuing to bring creative and inspired programs, workshops and events to individuals and families who are interested in further exploring the intersection of faith, family and food and it’s profound impact on, not only our physical, but our emotional, relational and spiritual health as well.
Although I knew actually attending would be a bit of a stretch due to some previously scheduled engagements, I had to find a way to help somehow. I wanted to learn more. I decided to share some digital materials that I have with parent participants in a digital gift bag and to write this blog about this most worthy cause!
What I love most about this Early Literacy Expo was that it was organized and facilitated by members of the community at their local church. You don’t have to be an educator or a librarian or a public relations expert to see a need in your community and do your part to help make it better. The church has always been a meeting place and a safe space in the Black community where we plan and host so much more than weekend worship services. If two vegan chefs can put together a literacy expo, you can, too! If parents aren’t reading to their children for whatever reasons, somebody else in the community can! If you don’t have books in your home (a necessity for literacy acquisition and growth), someone in the community does and is willing to share — just ask! When we share our needs and resources in open forums we all are bettered as a result. It still takes a village to raise a child. I’m so inspired by what this North Bronx community did at their Early Literacy Expo to raise the children of their village.