Literacy Leader: Reading Is Not Optional
Walter Dean Myers says that equality of opportunity is meaningless if black kids aren't literate.
TR: If you could give one piece of concrete advice to African-American parents about reading to children, what would it be?
WDM: I would begin reading to the child at 2 months. It doesn't have to be any huge academic thing or a big, fat book. Read something to the child every day. Encourage the child to look at pictures. Encourage the child to participate – "How do you think mama bear felt when she saw someone in her bed?" -- that kind of dialogue.
With teenagers, older children from 11 up, I would like to see people read the same book the child is reading -- maybe take turns, discuss the book. That will be very useful.
TR: Can you give us some recommended reads for African-American kids by black authors?
A Million Fish ... More or Less by Patricia C. McKissack (author) and Dena Schutzer (illustrator)
Baby Says by John Steptoe
Black Cat by Christopher Myers
Bright Eyes, Brown Skin by Cheryl Willis Hudson and Bernette G. Ford (authors) and George Ford (illustrator)
Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen (author) and Kadir Nelson (illustrator)
Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim (author) and LeUyen Pham (illustrator)
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson
Let's Count, Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson (author) and George Ford (illustrator)
Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee (authors) and Kadir Nelson (illustrator)
Jenée Desmond-Harris is a contributing editor to The Root.