SCI TV Show: Promoting the importance of reading

  • October 1, 2016
  • /   Reggie Dogan
  • /   video

The Studer Community Institute’s TV show this week highlights two local initiatives that support and promote the importance of reading.

In the first segment, Rev. Lonnie Wesley, pastor of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, talks about his involvement in bringing a national book-reading project to Pensacola.

Barbershop Books is a community-based literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops for boys ages 4 to 8 years old.

It leverages the cultural importance of barbershops in African American communities to help black boys identify as readers.

The focus on young black boys is significant because more than 80 percent of U.S black male fourth-graders are not proficient in reading.

In an increasingly global and knowledge-based economy, poor reading skills among young black boys today will produce millions of black male high school dropouts who are unprepared to compete in the workforce of tomorrow, creating a litany of negative life outcomes that cost us billions of dollars in lost taxes, low wages, crime and incarceration.

Pastor Wesley, through his efforts, has solicited support from the Baptist Minister’s Union of Pensacola and Vicinity to supply the Barbershop Books kit in 11 barbershops in the Pensacola area.

When he brought the ideas to the local ministers, Wesley said that Rev. Hosea Montgomery Jr., retired pastor of Bethlehem United Missionary Baptist Church, was one of the first to get behind the project.

"He stood up first, stood up tallest, but they all agree that we have to stop talking about the contributing factors that lead to negative outcomes and start doing something," Wesley said. "Even if we just help one young boy, it's more than worthwhile."

In the second segment, Julia Brady, volunteer coordinator for ECARE, or Every Child a Reader in Escambia, shines a spotlight on ReadingPals, a school-based mentoring program that helps 4-year-old prekindergarten pupils build strong pre-literacy skills necessary for success in kindergarten.

Each year, ECARE recruits more than 200 volunteers to participate in the ReadingPals program to help young children learn to read.

Right now a little more than 33 percent of 3,589 kindergartners — about 1,200 kids — show up unprepared to learn; nearly 8 percent of first-graders graders don’t pass to the next grade each year; only 55 percent of third-graders show proficiency in reading; students are five times more likely to drop out of school if they are retained during their academic career.

Once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to failure in school, which can increase the risk of absenteeism, dropping out, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy — all of the things that contribute to the cycle of poverty and dependency.

Programs like Barbershop Books and ReadingPals go a long way in helping children learn to read and get ready for school and their life beyond.

Watch Shannon Nickinson and me interview Rev. Lonnie Wesley and Julia Brady as part of the Institute’s goal of helping people understand their community and improving the quality of life for everyone.

To watch the show, click here.

The Institute’s TV show airs on BlabTV:

Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:30 a.m. and 11:30pm

Sunday, Oct. 2, 6 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 3, 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 4, 6 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 4 a.m., 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Thursday, Oct. 6, 4 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Friday, Oct. 7, 5 a.m. and 2 p.m.