Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap (Tatum)

In a few ways, this book is dated. I’m not buying the phrase “achievement gap” any longer. I like “opportunity gap.” The word ‘achievement’ assigns responsibility for the gap to the students (where some want it put). The word ‘opportunity’ puts it on the rest of us, which is where I think it belongs. Some of the resources Tatum recommends are no longer working. But most importantly, Tatum starts from the premise that the students are reading and that the work is to find out what obstacles are in their way (decoding, comprehension, text selection, etc.). My students are not reading – not for fun, not because it’s assigned, not much at all. When a 9th or 10th grader says that the last book s/he finished is The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, that’s cause for concern. But he’s right – I should do some teacher inquiry. One student at a time. What’s your reading biography? He and other authors I’ve read speak of their reading epiphany. It was an escape, someone put a book in their hand, whatever. For my students, the light is not going on and not for lack of trying (though somewhat for lack of a budget).

Tatum is great at asking questions. There are several catalogues of them that I’m sure I’ll return to regularly. (I do not what he means by the question – what does it mean to be figuratively feminized and castrated? Any ideas?)

Tatum’s theoretical chapters are worth reading; the rest are worth skimming.

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