COR Hosts Free Reading and Mentoring Program
By Dianne Anderson
It’s no secret that too many African American kids are lagging far behind their peers well into high school, an issue that starts from early formative years, and at least some of the problem with economics at its base.
African American moms often work two jobs, and many kids these days are missing out on some of that old-fashioned oversight that moms used to provide at the kitchen table until the homework was done.
Rev. Mark Whitlock, senior pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine is filling the void.
He is calling on parents to get their preschool and elementary students in a new free reading and mentoring program, where he personally works with the kids every Monday from 3-5:00 p.m.
There are still plenty of seats open.
“Don’t wait to enroll. Let’s teach our children to read now, and introduce our kids to books early on,” he said.
Watching the growing level of need has provided the motivation to host the class, he said. He is also working on his doctoral dissertation, especially focused on the role of the Black church on the development and intervention of Black boys in preschool and elementary school.
He believes the church has an essential place in helping kids get up to par in their studies.
“We do a lot of work with high school students, but we don’t focus enough on preschool and elementary school in the Black church,” he said.
The goal of the program is also preparing students for the college mindset. He will sit down with the kids for 90 minutes daily to improve their reading skills, to build self-esteem, and character development.
The love of words often starts young, but getting kids to have books in hand, and their parents in to participate in that early learning process is not without its challenges. He said about 70% of Black families have children being raised by single mothers, which often means the mother is working long hours to provide for her family.
“We’re saying mom bring your child to the church. Let us work with that child so we may teach that child to read and write,” he said.
But economics is not the worst of the problem. It’s all about giving the child the time and focus needed to develop their academic skills.
“We do know that whether or low-income or high-income, if there is no attention paid to the student, they both will have negative consequences,” he said.
Often, he said that learning disabilities could stem from academic support that students didn’t receive during their preschool and elementary years, and it may be part of the reason why many students of color are mislabeled and shifted into developmentally disabled classes. He believes that some of the so-called disabilities could be rectified with a strong early learning foundation.
“In my opinion, it’s not disability, it’s availability. We have to be available,” he said. “The Bible says train up a child in a way they go and they will not depart from it.”
Without that early guidance and mentoring, he feels that it’s easy for the kids to get lost in the current education system, but the church can play an important role in guiding them.
“If there is a lack of knowledge, motivation and organizational influence of the Black church in the social, emotional development of Black boys in elementary school, then it creates a school pipeline to prison,” he said.
For more information on the program, contact COR at (949) 955-0014