By MURPHY BROWNE (Abena Agbetu)
It is already the fourth week of July and four weeks since the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The time has flown while school children and parents have hopefully enjoyed the beautiful summer sunshine and the past super-cold winter is just a dim memory. We are almost halfway to the reopening of school for the 2014-2015 school year, just five weeks left of the summer holidays.
Summer is my favourite time of the year with warm days and bright sunshine most days from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. There is so much to do with several festivals hosted by the City of Toronto and various organizations and communities. It is also the time of year when I can enjoy one of my favourite activities (reading) outdoors. Although there is no formal education during this time of the year, children should be encouraged to read.
Whatever your children’s interests, there are books that they would enjoy reading. Research has shown that the effects of “summer reading loss” can have a negative impact on the education of students. “Summer reading loss”, sometimes referred to as the “summer slide”, is the result of children not reading for most of the two months away from formal education.
Information from the website of the organization “Reading Is Fundamental, Inc.” (RIF) entitled “Keeping Kids Off the Summer Slide” states that:
“Experts agree that children who read during the summer gain reading skills, while those who do not often slide backward. According to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association: A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 per cent of the school year… It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.
“Sociologists Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle have shown that the cumulative effect of summer learning differences is a primary cause of widening achievement gaps between students of lower and higher socio-economic levels. Research demonstrates that while student achievement for both middle-and lower-income students improves at similar rates during the school year, low-income students experience cumulative summer learning losses throughout their elementary school years.”
RIF is the oldest and largest non-profit literacy organization in the United States. Founded in 1966, it is based in Washington, D.C.
Reading is an excellent summer activity, especially for our children and young people who are out of school and away from formal education for the next five weeks (back to school Tuesday, September 2). Encourage the children to read for fun and to learn about our heroes and sheroes, those well known, little known and unsung. One of those heroes, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (January 18, 1856 – August 4, 1931) made history when he performed the first successful heart surgery on July 9, 1893. His achievements were extraordinary for an African-American who was born before slavery was abolished in the USA on January 31, 1865.
Dr. Hale Williams received his medical degree from the Chicago Medical College in 1883 and established the Provident Hospital and Training School on May 4, 1891. I could only find three books written for children about Dr. Hale Williams: The heart man: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, by Louise Meriwether, published in 1972; Sure Hands, Strong Heart: The Life of Daniel Hale Williams, by Lillie Patterson, published in 1981 and Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Minds (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Inventors and Scientists), by Mike Venezia, published in 2010.
Unfortunately, none of these books is available at the Toronto Public Library (TPL). However this is a good time to practice Ujamaa (Co-operative economics) the fourth principle of the Nguzo Saba (seven principles) of Kwanzaa. Practicing Ujamaa means supporting businesses owned by members of our community.
In the 1997 published book Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, Dr. Maulana Karenga defines the practice of Ujamaa as: “To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.”
There are several bookstores owned by African Canadians where we can buy books for ourselves and our children, including Accents Bookstore, A Different Booklist, Knowledge Bookstore and Nile Valley Books. Now would be a good time to practice Ujamaa by visiting these bookstores and buying books for your children, yourself, your relatives and friends.
Good news! The TPL has several children’s books about the little known history of Africans in Canada, including The Children of Africville, by Christine Welldon, published 2009; Last Days in Africville by Dorothy Perkyns, published 2003; To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada, by Steve Pitt, published 2008; The Kids Book of Black Canadian History, by Rosemary Sadlier, published 2003; The Black Canadians: Their History and Contributions, by Velma Carter, published 1993; Viola Desmond Won’t be Budged, by Jody Warner, published 2010; Crossing to Freedom, by Virginia Frances Schwartz, published 2010 and John Ware, by Ian Hundey, published 2006.
Early reading for enjoyment and appreciation can lead to a lifetime of willingness to continue reading and learning. Taking children to the library to borrow books that are age appropriate is a good way to start the love of reading. Buying books that children can keep at home is also encouragement to enjoy reading.
Apart from supporting our community bookstores by visiting these bookstores our children can learn that there are other ways to make a living besides working for other people. It might encourage them to become entrepreneurs and we do need that in our community. Even if you have young pre-school children it is important that they are introduced to books:
“Early childhood educators and neurologists agree that the first eight years are a critical time of brain development. Infants come into the world with a brain waiting to be woven into the complex fabric of the mind. Some neurons in the brain are wired before birth, but many are waiting to be programmed by early experiences. The early environment where young children live will help determine the direction of their brain development. Children who have severely limited opportunities for appropriate experiences will be delayed; this may permanently affect their learning. But, children who have the opportunity to develop in an organized and appropriate environment are challenged to think and use materials in new ways.” (www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=334)
Enjoy the great summer weather and the summer festivals, read with your children and encourage them to read.