Dear Caring Adults,
It is often implied that classroom/academic learning for Black children appears to be more of a challenge than it is for children of other racialized groups. It is my personal belief that the idea of academic challenge is equally as applicable for children who are excelling as it is for those who aren’t.
Based on my own experience of navigating the Canadian preschool, elementary, secondary, community college and university undergraduate studies system, here are a few things that were notable hindrances when I was in school and appear to be practically the same to this very day.
- Lack of diversity in learning materials
When children rarely see themselves in the pictures of textbooks and/or educational videos that are used to support their learning – this definitely has an impact on how they absorb. Furthermore, if their stories are not being told through history lessons and/or literature, it adds to this issue by hindering their ability to authentically connect with the material that they are being taught. For the child that excels, this can still be negative because they may not actually be achieving to their fullest potential due to lack of interest or being able to connect. Meanwhile, for the child who is experiencing challenges they may not be as motivated to want to do better for the same reason; inability to connect.
- Lack of diverse educators
If educators aren’t a representation of who is actually in the classroom, this is a self-explanatory challenge. Similar to students being able to see themselves in the materials they are learning from, seeing themselves in the people who are imparting said knowledge is just as crucial. It fuels the idea that they too can aspire to be professionals in whatever capacity when they grow up too. In addition, when other teachers aren’t committed to learning how to incorporate diversity into their classrooms, this also becomes problematic. Even if students aren’t seeing themselves in their teacher, they will at least reap the benefits of having an educator who learns how to incorporate diversity.
Keep in mind that Black children are already entering the school system with the above setbacks. With that said, let’s empower our youth! Even if there are challenges with learning something new that may seem boring because it is possibly not something they authentically connect with, we do have the ability to redirect this trajectory by attempting to make it fun! The pleasure in this would then shift to becoming the mastery of figuring things out along the way and ending up with better results!
As we continue to work through the kinks that anti-Black racism presents for our children in the classroom, remember that every little bit counts. Let’s be proactive by giving our children the support that they require and deserve by supplementing what may be lacking in their learning environments at school.
Reading tends to be one of the top challenges for Black children in school so we will focus on this. For children who are just learning how to read or who may be experiencing some challenges with comprehension, here are a few great ideas that are a soft approach to assisting with skill building.
- Lead by example! Let the children in your company see you reading for pleasure. Perhaps reading could be an activity that you do together, outside of a learning environment.
- Use books that are age appropriate and that are about topics that the child is interested in. For those who are behind in their reading, it is okay to drop down a level or two and choose easier books until their confidence builds. This is appropriate for learning spaces and in the home.
- Have the child read aloud then have casual conversation about what was read to develop their comprehension skills. Ask open ended questions that require full explanation such as “how did the main character feel?” “Describe what made you know how the main character felt.”
- In addition to finding books that they are interested in, picture books with characters that look like them are also important to incorporate into your reading routine.
As you and your Lovely Learners navigate into the last months of the school year, be empowered to guide them into feeling good about school and learning. For those who aren’t in an official school setting as of yet – the above sentiment is applicable too! It is never too early to start reading with your child or instilling the idea that learning is fun even with some of the setbacks that may already be in existence! Let me know how their reading and comprehension skills are coming along, I’d be delighted to hear about it!
Until next time,
Be Love, Be Light!
~ Ms. Love