The Oakland NAACP’s Literacy Campaign, Why It Matters and How You Can Help

“Help them really understand that we have a problem, it impacts all of us, it is solvable, and it is within our control.” -Dr. Timothy Shanahan

Much love to Oakland’s NAACP.  They are taking on the issues that actually matter to families and making a difference.  This was on full display at a packed West Oakland Library, where Education chair Kareem Weaver rolled out the NAACP’s education agenda, and it’s all about literacy

By and large, Black and Brown children cannot read in Oakland, and elsewhere.  And while we can come up with a list of excuses, we haven’t done what we need to assure that they are properly taught. 

That is where the NAACP is digging in.

You can see some video here. And the presentation here.

“We Need kids to Read so they can chart their own path”

Last I saw 14% of Black elementary schoolers in OUSD could read on grade level, it was 15% at charters.  For Latinx students it was 19% at charter public schools and 16% at district schools.   Chances are if you are Black or Brown in Oakland, your child cannot read on grade level.  And we need to change that.

The good news is that we do actually know how to help here.  The so called “reading wars” are pretty much over.  There is a fairly settled science on how different early readers need to be supported to become literate.  The thing is, we largely ignore that science, don’t necessarily emphasize it in teacher training programs, and definitely don’t implement it in practice.  This is a critical fight and it is one we can win.

The Secret Stash of Open Court Books in the Closet

I will be sharing the presentation.  But the short of it is that there are different types of readers.  Some pick up reading naturally, others, actually need more structured support in literacy and support in the building blocks.  And still others are dyslexic and need another set of very specific supports.  Unfortunately, we don’t really test for dyslexia like we should and we most definitely don’t consistently teach reading like we should.

I chuckled at the story of a teacher who had a covert set of Open Court books (which is a very structured approach) in her closet, that she would sneak out to help kids read.  Since presumably her school did not use the more phonics based approaches.  But it was not funny, that this is the hodgepodge of literacy practices in Oakland and the urgent need for more consistency and rigor.

We looked at good science and also good sense around the need to do better on the literacy front.  In the end it focused on action.  And you can see some of those actions here. We need better curricula, better PD, monitors of school practices, models of effective practice, responsive teacher training programs, and much more.

Please join us. The stakes could not be higher. And we can do this together. Appreciate the NAACP for taking the lead.

What do you think?

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