In a recent report entitled A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools, the Council of the Great City Schools calls the achievement gap for African-American males a “national catastrophe” and notes that “there is no concerted national effort to improve the education, social and employment outcomes of African-American males” (p. 11). Next month in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the library community will come together with authors, publishers, policymakers, researchers, and educators in a summit entitled Building a Bridge to Literacy for African-American Male Youth: A Call to Action for the Library Community. Our goal is to become part of the national effort to improve the quality of education and life for African-American males in the United States. Over the course of two and a half days, we will share our experiences, our challenges, and our ideas in three areas: research (what is known about the literacy development and needs of African-American male youth and additional gaps that need to be filled); programs & services (what programs and services work to support the literacy needs of African-American male youth and what gaps exist); and resources (what resources are needed to enable school and public libraries to effectively address the literacy needs of African-American male youth).
Taking action on the national crisis surrounding the literacy achievement of African-American males is an extension of the mission of public and school libraries to support lifelong learning. We believe the library community is eager to embrace this challenge, but we can’t do it alone. We hope that you will use this blog to join our discussion by providing us with feedback on our stories and ideas and by sharing your own. You can get involved in other ways too: visit the summit website, follow our Twitter hashtag (#bridge2lit), and be on the lookout for our upcoming webinar and white paper after the conclusion of the summit. As we continue to plan for the summit itself, a key theme that we keep returning to is the idea that words – whether written or read, spoken or heard – are powerful. So we hope that you add your words to ours by contributing to the media surrounding this effort. Welcome to the conversation!