Rapper 50 Cent and boxer Floyd Mayweather are engaged in a little childish beef. After trading verbal jabs, the former friends have been taking jabs at each other on social media for some time now. Recently, 50 took things up a notch when he challenged Mayweather to a read a page from Harry Potter (he later downgraded it to Cat In the Hat). If Mayweather accepts the challenge and reads a page from the book, 50 will donate $750,000 to a charity of the boxer’s choice.
To my knowledge, Mayweather has yet to accept 50’s offer, but New York radio station Power 105.1 got in on the antics by broadcasting a clip of Mayweather struggling to read a drop (a commercial) for the station.
Here’s what Mayweather was supposed to read:
“I’m Floyd Mayweather, and I’ve joined iHeart Radio for the Show Your Stripes Movement to support hiring vets. Go to ShowYourStripes.org, a website that connects veterans with employees, and helps businesses find candidates with the best training.”
In the clip, Mayweather’s stumbles over words, his reading is disjointed, and it takes him several times to read the short paragraph.
Predictably, social media erupted with folks taking shots at Mayweather’s lackluster reading skills.
Cop: Ok Floyd Im going to read you your rights Mayweather: Thank you pic.twitter.com/eVv2vFWxVj
— Fernando Sucre (@12YearsAHaitian) August 22, 2014
FLOYD IN THE LIBRARY LIKE pic.twitter.com/BbUJEFyBsl
— ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ♡vizual.jpg♡ (@R_MPhotography) August 22, 2014
Though it’s “funny” to hear Mayweather—who, by all accounts is a despicable human being because he hits women—stumble over simple sentences, for many of our boys literacy is no laughing matter.
For me, listening to Mayweather struggle to read was very uncomfortable, but as a former middle school teacher and mother of a child with dyslexia, it’s something I’ve heard many, many times before.
For six years, I listened to my seventh and eighth grade students struggle to read aloud, and I’d wonder how they had been allowed to make it to middle school even though they read on a second or third grade level. I’d listen in equal parts horror and pity as they butchered words, skipped lines, or just gave up altogether. As someone who’s always loved to read I couldn’t understand how teachers before me passed my students along without trying to intervene until they were almost too old to have a chance.
When I was a teacher, I’d work with my students as best as I could to not only help them fill in the reading gaps, but also rebuild their confidence, which had been destroyed from years of being teased by their classmates for not being able to read fluidly.
After seeing what my students went through I vowed that would never happen to my son—but it did.
Le Kid is eight, and he’s been struggling to read since he was five or six. At first, I brushed it off as him not being ready to read in the first place, after all he was still young. But when I noticed he was memorizing larger words, but was still struggling with smaller words like this, was, and an, I knew there was a problem.
Over the summer I had him assessed by a private neuropsychologist to see if he had a learning disability. As I suspected, the doctor found that while Le Kid has above average intelligence, vocabulary, and expressive skills, he struggles with processing information. Moreover, he’s missing huge chunks of phonemic skills and is dyslexic.
The good news? We figured this all out early and can get him the extra help he needs to patch up his reading and writing skills.
The bad news? There’s no cure for dyslexia.
While being dyslexic won’t stop Le Kid from being a paleontologist, which is what he wants to be when he grows up, for many of our kids, walking around with an untreated learning disability has stopped them from reaching their goals.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 83-percent of Black fourth graders, 55-percent of whites, and 81-percent of Latinos read below proficiency level. And though Floyd Mayweather’s reading challenges may not have held him back—he’s the highest paid athlete in the world—for many of our kids, struggling to read has huge consequences.
The Campaign for Grade Level reading notes:
“Mastering reading by the end of third grade is essential for school success since students begin to transition at that point from learning to read to reading to learn. Those who do not hit the proficiency mark by then are four times more likely to drop out of high school, research shows. Among those who do not read well, the dropout rates are twice as high for African-American and Hispanic students as they are for white students.”
Moreover, kids who have difficulty reading are least likely to be economically successful, and more likely to end up in the legal system.
Joking about Mayweather’s reading challenges may sound cool at first, but with so many of our young people facing the same difficulties with a lot fewer resources, our kids need to see more than a few clever tweets shaming someone whose struggles mirror their own.