“Celebrity readers,” which is what volunteers were called for the day, took turns reading books to students at Abram Simon Elementary School in southeast D.C. for a recent Black History Month literary celebration.
The event, which featured books praising the lives of African Americans, was two fold.
“It was a push to increase literacy and then also to expose children to black history,” said Shayna Cook, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Simon. The population of the school is 100 percent black, according to the District of Columbia Public Schools.
Aside from further educating students ranging from pre-kindergarten and fourth grade about their history, readers and administrators stressed the importance of literacy.
In 2011 only 37 percent of students from Simon Elementary met the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) reading standards, compared to the average of 42 percent, According to DCPS. This was a 14 percent jump from 2010. However, only 1 percent exceeded the reading standard, which is below the 8 percent average.
While promoting literacy, participants tried to motivate the students to achieve anything their dreams.
“It’s amazing to see how big they dream,” said volunteer Jevon Potts, who read to a class of antsy pre-kindergarten students.
By the close of the day, excited students were buzzing about the day’s events and voicing their aspirations to be singers, dancers, doctors and, most importantly, college graduates.
“It was inspirational to see how educated the kids are,” said Jazsmin Watson-Booth, another volunteer reader. “People don’t think they’re as smart as they are, because they’re so young.”
Adelaide Flamer, the principal at Simon, was pleased with not only the community participation in the event, but also the student involvement.
“These children have a history,” Flamer said. ” They’re going to make history.”