At ProLiteracy, we believe that literacy is a means to equity. When an adult increases their literacy skills, they can take advantage of opportunities previously unavailable to them.
As Black History Month draws to a close, it seems appropriate to reflect on this. According to t Program for the International (PIAAC), 36 percent of Black adults read at Level 1 or below compared to 12 percent of white adults.
Increasing adult literacy levels has the potential to positively impact socio-economic issues such as poverty, incarceration, and limited access to health care—all of which affect the Black community at higher rates.
We don’t celebrate Black history month simply to recognize the Black individuals who did something important. Black history is about understanding the collective experiences of Black people in America and why the actions of those individuals matter to us all. From Harriet Tubman to Rosa Parks and Rodney King to George Floyd, each of their stories is cemented in what it means to be Black in America, and each of them is a part of the greater and continuing narrative of our history.
Black history can’t be forgotten when we turn the calendar page at the end of February, because the racial inequity that persists demands that we keep Black history in the present.
Where do we go from here?
We can start with literacy and education. Yet, as we help Black students achieve equity, are we doing so in an unbiased and anti-racist way?
Do all of your students feel seen and understood? Are your class discussions inclusive? Are you using and presenting materials that represent the cultures and experiences of all your students?
If any of your answers were no, it’s OK. Consider this a reminder to make a conscious effort to reflect on where you can make improvements. Your students deserve it.