There is a three-year gap between Black and white students. Many people love to believe it’s because of income, fatherlessness, educational attainment of the parent and lack of parental involvement. I believe a major reason for the gap is we continue to close schools for the summer as if we are an agrarian economy. Very few Black youths will be farming this summer. If you multiply three months by 12 years you will see the three-year gap. There is nothing wrong with Black youth if their schools remained open during the summer and/or their parents kept them academically engaged.
Middle-income parents who value education enroll their children in some type of academic experience during the summer. They also visit libraries, museums, zoos and colleges. Other parents allow their children to sleep longer, play more video games, watch more television and play basketball until they can’t see the hoop. These students will have to review the same work they had mastered in May in September.
Black parents cannot allow their child to lose three months every year. Black parents cannot say they cannot afford the library. It’s free! Most museums have discounted days. A male friend of mine shared his experience with me when he took his family to the museum. He wondered why so many people were staring at him. His wife and children had to tell him he was the only Black man in the building! I am appealing to every father to take his children this summer to the library, museum and the zoo. I am appealing to every mother—if he won’t, then you do it.
We need every parent to make sure their children read at least one book per week and write a book report. I am reminded of the formula Sonya Carson used to develop Ben Carson to become the best pediatric neurosurgeon. This low-income single parent, with a third-grade education, had enough sense to tell her sons to turn off the television, read a book and write a report that her sister would grade.
I have a theory that I can go into your house and within five minutes tell you the type of student who lives there and predict that student’s future. I believe that engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. need different items in their house than ballplayers, rappers and criminals. I am very concerned when I visit a house that has more CDs and downloads than books. My company, African-American Images, has designed a special collection of books for boys. Research shows one of the major reasons boys dislike reading is because of the content. The set is titled “Best Books for Boys.” We also have one for girls, parents and teachers. Enjoy your summer. Let’s close the gap. I look forward to your child’s teacher asking your child what did you do for the summer? And your child answering we went to the library, museum, zoo, colleges and other great educational places.
Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu is the author of “There Is Nothing Wrong with Black Students,” “Changing School Culture for Black Males,” “Raising Black Boys” and “Raising Black Girls.”