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How Do You Encourage Your #BrownBoyGenius to Read?

By on Apr 20, 2015 | 2 comments

Let’s face it, some boys just don’t like to read. As a former English teacher and current writer, I dreamed of my son following my footsteps and falling in love with the written word, but when I told me he hated to read I felt like I failed as a parent. I mean, my child hates to read? As if! After getting over my initial shock, I listened to what my son was actually saying. He hated to read because it was hard for him (and so many other boys), but he still loved hearing stories. So I read, and read, and read and kept on buying books I thought might interest him until one day he uttered the words that made me super happy: I’m a reader!  Recently I saw a tweet about a program that encourages boys to fall in love with reading by putting in reading nooks in barbershops around New York City. It sounded pretty awesome, so I reached out to the founder of Barbershop Books for my TakePart column. Alvin Irby, a former elementary school teacher and current grad student, shared the inspiration for Barbershop Books and where he hopes to take the program in the future. Irby says the idea came to him after he watched one of his first grade students stare aimlessly out of a barbershop window while he waited for a trim. “I wished I had a book I could give him so he could practice his reading,” Irby remembers, explaining that the young man also needed to improve his literacy skills, a challenge that plagues far too many boys. Read the entire article on the TakePart site. Irby initially funded Barbershop Books out of his own pocket, but he recently won a $5000 grant for the program from the Fels Public Policy Challenge Competition. He also relies on donations. The reading stations are currently housed in six shops spread across Harlem and Brooklyn, but Irby hopes to expand to 25 by the end of the year. Encouraging reading and helping our boys develop competent literacy skills is integral to their success. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading breaks down why making sure boys are proficient by the 3rd grade is so important. 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. White male students are three times more likely to be reading proficiently in the fourth grade than their African-American peers and more than twice as likely as Hispanic boys, according to a data analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Center.  The statistics are even more startling for children of color from low-income families, with just 10 percent of the African-American boys and 14 percent of Hispanic boys reading proficiently, compared to 25 percent for their white peers. So how can we encourage boys of color to fall in love with reading? According to Irby, it’s all about access and finding books they’ll love. “If children have easy access to books, they’re much more likely to read for fun. If the books are interesting and engaging, they’re more likely to keep reading and read again. The more children read for fun, the better they become at reading,” he said. How do you encourage your BrownBoyGenius to love reading? Share your tips in the comments section!  Related Post Here’s Why We Need to Support Boys With Natu... Stand With Ahmed By Encouraging Your BrownBoyGeniu... Book Review + Giveaway: ‘I Want to Be An Ath... This College Student Makes Six-Figures & is...

Another Day, Another Man Becomes a Hashtag: #BlackLivesMatter, But to Whom?

By on Apr 9, 2015 | 0 comments

Time magazine recently unveiled its latest cover, which declares Black Lives Matter. But as news of yet another killing of an unarmed Black man by police spreads across the nation, I’m wondering if our lives really matter, and if so, to whom? Clearly, our lives matter to us and to those who have flooded streets and malls and bridges and universities and embassies to declare it so. But do they matter to those who actually wield the power? Do Black lives matter to our politicians who pay lip service to our concerns, or to those police officers who view folks with brown skin as suspicious? I’m not so sure. When I look at my son I see so many things. I see a kid who’s hilarious and loves to dance; I see a little boy obsessed with dinosaurs and trading Pokémon cards with his friends; and I see the promise of an awesome future. But I also see a tall kid who will grow into an even taller Black man, and that scares me. I have yet to have “the talk” with my son. You know, the one so many Black parents have with their sons about how to behave around the police. At 9, I feel—perhaps naïvely—he’s too young to be burdened with such things. But it’s coming, and that frightens me. Some people will say that if I just raise him to be respectful and teach him to always do the right thing he’ll be protected from run-ins with the police, but I know differently. Racial prejudice and profiling knows no economic or academic bounds. Being rich or smart or “good” cannot protect my son from someone else’s prejudice, especially when that person is a police officer. Recently, Chris Rock made news after he shared yet another selfie of being pulled over by police. So far, Rock has been stopped multiple times in the past few months, each time snapping a photo to record the incident….just in case. Stopped by the cops again wish me luck. pic.twitter.com/6t0wlgwkrJ — Chris Rock (@chrisrock) March 31, 2015 It seems ridiculous that someone would need to leave a record of a routine traffic stop, but as Walter Scott—the latest unarmed man to be gunned down by a cop—shows us, sometimes it pays to have a record of what went down. According to reports, Michael Slager pulled Scott over for a burned-out taillight, but things quickly escalated, and by the end of it all Scott was dead. Though Slager claimed he “feared for his life” when he shot Scott multiple times in the back, a video showed an entirely different story. Without video of the horrific incident, Slager may not have gotten fired or arrested for murder, Scott’s death wouldn’t have made national news. As people praise Feidin Santana for recording the damming video of Walter Scott’s death and turning it over to the press, others have criticized Rock for posting selfies of his police stops. But he isn’t the only famous Black person to experience racial profiling. Both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have spoken about being profiled as well, even while serving the nation. During a trip to Ferguson, Missouri last year, Holder talked of having “the talk” with his father and being pulled over—multiple times—for no reason at all: I thought of my father’s words years later, when – as a college student – I was pulled over twice on the New Jersey turnpike and my car was searched – even though I was sure I hadn’t been speeding. I thought of them again some time after that, when a police officer stopped and questioned me in Washington while I was running to catch a movie – even though I happened to be a federal prosecutor at the time. …I couldn’t help but think of my father just a couple of years ago when I sat down to convey the same message to my own teenage son after the shooting of Trayvon Martin – a conversation I hoped I’d never have to have. As the phrase Black Lives Matter continues to permeate the mainstream, I can’t help but wonder if it’s actually true. Related Post Leland Melvin Has the BEST NASA Photo Ever, But He... This 12-year-old Turns Scraps Into Robotic Toys 3 Reasons to Participate in #MuseumWeek 7 Picture Books to Read With Little Brown...

3 Reasons to Participate in #MuseumWeek

By on Mar 23, 2015 | 0 comments

One of the funniest moments with my dad happened in a museum. One Saturday he took my brother and I to the National History Museum here in L.A., and as we wandered around, my dad asked us to snap a picture of him. My dad is an interesting guy and he wanted a super interesting picture, so he did something you’re never ever supposed to do: jump into the exhibit! That day my dad hopped over the railing and into the mammoth exhibit to pose for the picture…until the alarm went off. Then, he promptly jumped out and dashed into the hallway until it stopped ringing. His picture? A blur…but it was an awesome blur! And it’s also a memory that’s stuck with me for my entire life. I spent a large part of my childhood visiting museums, and so far Le Kid has as well. On any given weekend we’re hanging out at one of L.A.’s many museums, so I was geeked to find out there’s an entire week set aside to encourage people to explore these important institutions. Today marks the beginning of #MuseumWeek, an international effort to get people into museums. More than 2,000 institutions from all over the globe are participating in the effort to spread the word about how wonderful and important museums are to the world. In honor of #MuseumWeek Le Kid and I will be heading down to the San Diego Natural History Museum to check out their collection, and we think you should participate too. Here’s why. Museums are FUN Museums aren’t stuffy, boring affairs. While you should certainly steer clear of jumping into an exhibit like my dad, most museums have hands-on programs for kids that are not only fun, but are also good for the brain. From arts and crafts, to building robotics and digging for dinosaur bones, a trip to a museum is the perfect way to spend the day. Museums teach us about the world I don’t know about you, but I LOVE to travel. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to London, Paris, and Johannesburg, and I want to see so much more. Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t always support my wanderlust. So, when I’m feeling the itch to hit the road, I turn to museums to experience the world’s cultures, religions, and people until I can travel again. If you want to go abroad, but just can’t afford it right now, head to a museum and immerse yourself in another country’s customs instead. Museums make history come alive Visiting museums helps history come alive—and no I’m not talking about the movie. Like most children, Le Kid LOVES dinosaurs. He loves playing with dino toys, watching dino docs, and drawing pictures of dinos. But you know what made him want to be a paleontologist? Seeing actual dinosaur fossils and speaking to scientists at the National History Museum of L.A. Hanging out a museum helps people see exactly what they learned about in books or school, and you know what? The real thing is usually way more awesome. For me, seeing artifacts from Ancient Egypt and the Kingdom of Nubia at the British Museum completely blew me away. What’s your favorite museum? Will you be participating in #MuseumWeek? BTW: be sure to follow BrownBoyGenius on Instagram to see our pics from #MuseumWeek. Related Post 7 Picture Books to Read With Little Brown Boys This 12-year-old Turns Scraps Into Robotic Toys No, Shaming Kids In Public Won’t Make Them D... Must Watch: This Sesame Street ‘House of...

After Ferguson, What Do Men & Boys of Color Think Of the Police? It’s Complicated

By on Mar 4, 2015 | 0 comments

Last year, the topic of over-policing and police brutality bubbled to the surface after several high-profile killings made national news. The names Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice became household names when each were tragically killed by police last year, sparking protests across the nation and fueling a debate about what proper community policing looks like. Just this week the Department of Justice released a scathing report about widespread racial profiling, discrimination, and abuse by the police department in Ferguson, Missouri. Although the DOJ elected not to charge former officer Darren Wilson in the death of Mike Brown, the Justice Department’s investigation uncovered eye-opening details about racism in the department. Here are some highlights of the report: Members of the Ferguson PD circulated racist emails, including one featuring President Obama with the question: “What black man holds a steady job for four years?” Although Black residents make up 67% of residents in Ferguson, they accounted for 93% of all those arrested. 85% of all drivers stopped by police were Black In 14 incidents where police dogs were unleashed and people were bitten, all victims were Black. Ferguson has a total of 53 police officers, only 3 are Black. Read more here. The damming report illustrates a department rife with ingrained racism and in need of serious change. Ferguson MayorMayor James Knowles III has repeatedly insisted that there is “no racial divide” in his city, but many residents say otherwise. Against this backdrop of months of discussion and protests about policing, a Seattle production team asked 50 men and boys of color what they think of the police. And like any relationship, it’s complicated. Take a look. Related Post After Ferguson: Here’s The Talk That Needs t... This Teen Built a Million-Dollar Tech Company, But... No, Shaming Kids In Public Won’t Make Them D... In Praise of Jaden Smith & Young Men Who...

Must Watch: This Sesame Street ‘House of Cards’ Parody is AWESOME

By on Feb 25, 2015 | 0 comments

Frank Underwood got a makeover. The iconic, and shrewd, lead of Netflix’s hit drama House of Cards made his way to Sesame Street, and it’s downright awesome. Just days before Netflix launches the third season of its highly-anticipated political drama, the folks over at Sesame Street decided to retell the Three Little Pigs through a spot-on parody of House of Cards. In this version, the wolf takes on Underwood’s Southern drawl and cunning personality to retell the classic story and teach kids about math. What could be more awesome than that? Take a look. Are you a House of Cards fan? What did you think of Sesame Street’s take? Related Post From Jail to Interviewing the President, See Why T... Another Day, Another Man Becomes a Hashtag: #Black... After Ferguson, What Do Men & Boys of Color T... No, Spanking Your Son Is Not...

Leland Melvin Has the BEST NASA Photo Ever, But He’s Also Pretty Amazing

By on Jan 30, 2015 | 4 comments

Leland Melvin has the best official NASA photo ever. But you know what’s even more amazing? His inspiring story! After being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1986, Melvin’s football career was cut short due to several injuries. Instead of giving up, Melvin tackled a new challenge: getting into space. He began working for NASA in 1989 and has logged more than 565 hours in space over the course of his career. If that wasn’t enough, Melvin is the only person–in history–to have been drafted into the NFL and fly in space. But he didn’t make it to the International Space Center because of his football skills. Melvin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, a Master’s degree in materials science engineering, and four honorary doctorates for his service in education, the sciences and philanthropy. As a NASA researcher and astronaut, Melvin is passionate about getting kids excited about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education, and has even taken his talents to Sesame Street. These days, Melvin can be seen on Lifetime’s show, “Child Genius” or speaking about science, photography, technology, and of course, space. Take a look: Related Post Help Your Child Beat the ‘Summer Slide’ With U... Stand With Ahmed By Encouraging Your BrownBoyGeniu... Another Day, Another Man Becomes a Hashtag: #Black... 5 Apps Brown Boys Will...