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In an increasingly global and knowledge-based economy, poor reading skills among minorities today will produce millions of minorities who are unprepared to compete in the workforce of tomorrow – creating a host of negative life outcomes that will cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost taxes, low wages, crime and increased incarceration. The following five obstacles are key contributors to low literacy among young minorities.



1. Limited access to engaging reading material.


A high disproportionately share of Inner City’s minorities live in book deserts, where libraries, bookstores, and reading material at home are scarce. In some of America’s low-income communities, researchers have found only 1 age appropriate book for every 300 children. Also, budget cuts to Public Libraries have led to reductions in already sparse programming opportunities for children in public libraries.  


2. Lack of minority men in kids early reading experiences.


During the critical period for reading acquisition (pre-K to grade 3), minority men are missing from reading experiences of many kids. 72% of Black children live with single-mothers and less than 2% of American teachers are Black males. Minority men’s absence is significant because recent social psychology findings suggest that encouragement and modeling from relevant same gender role models can improve kids’ reading self-concept – the extent to which they identify as readers.


3. Ineffective Reading Instruction.


Kids disproportionately attend under-resourced schools with inexperienced teachers who fail to translate the reading skills students need to know into effective reading instruction. The National Reading Panel’s findings show that explicit reading instruction (explaining and modeling why, how, and when to use specific reading strategies) is highly effective especially for underserved children who generally start school lacking important foundational literacy skills.


4. Schools Lack Culturally Competent Teachers.


Public school students’ cultures and communities are unfamiliar to many of their teachers, instances of cultural dissonance, racial bias, and stereotyping have increased substantially. Most boys and girls do not attend schools with culturally responsive classrooms, where “effective teaching and learning occur in a culturally-supported, learner-centered context, whereby the strengths children bring to school are identified, nurtured, and utilized to promote student achievement.”


5. Classrooms Don’t Acknowledge or Incorporate Boys' and Girls’ Reading Preferences.


Many early childhood classrooms use children’s literature that does not match minority preferences for nonfiction action texts and books with positive minority main characters.



[1] Dickinson, David K, and Susan B. Neuman. (2007). Handbook of early literacy research.Vol.2.Guilford Press 31.


[2] David Giles. (2013). New York City Public Libraries Open Fewer Hours Thank Libraries in Other Major cities. Next City.


[3] NYC Independent Budget Office. (2014). Demographics and Work Experience: A Statical Portrait of New York City’s Public School Teachers.


[4] Stout, J. G., Dasgupta, N., Hunsinger, M., & McManus, M. A. (2011). STEMing the tide: using ingroup experts to inoculate women’s self-concept in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Journal of personality and social psychology, 100(2), 255.


[5] O’Connor, C., & Fernandez, S. D. (2006). Race, class, and disproportionality: Reevaluating the relationship between poverty and special education placement. Educational Researcher, 35(6), 9.


[6] National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Retrieved 7/24/13 from


[7] Lynn, Marvin, et al. (2010). Examining teachers’ beliefs about African A merican male students in a low-performing high school in an African American school district. The Teachers College Record 112 (1).–Black%20male%20attitudes.pdf


[8] Husband, Terry. (2012) “Why can’t Jamal read?” Phi Delta Kappan 93(5), 23-27.


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