Last night, after work, I took Chitunga for a final driving lesson before his big test and invited Glody Tumba, Central High School, to join us - another young man with roots from Congo who attends Bridgeport City Schools. With Fairfield University's winning lacrosse record and my student, Jacob Knostman, getting much playing time on the team, I knew it was a great way to welcome spring on a Tuesday afternoon (a couple of days early).
A highlight of the time spent together, however, was when Kwame Alexander called to celebrate the release of The Crossover and to tap my thinking about other ways to promote the book this March during its madness. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, but the best part of the conversation was when Kwame hung up (no offense, Rooster). Chitunga, Glody, and I began talking about the need for more good books that appeal to young men like them and we brainstormed a few possibilities for their own creations. I made a deal with them: get A's in school and I guarantee I can set up a time for the two of them to meet Kwame. He can write their books!
Here's the other deal: Many of our urban youth are positioned as non-readers, when in truth they love to read books that appeal to their interests. Most books assigned to school represent elite, esoteric texts chosen to condition high school graduates for entrance into a college-tracked world. Each of these young men left my library today with copies of texts that mattered to their lives and worlds. My point? More books like Kwame Alexander's The Crossover are needed in our schools (although they don't have The Crossover...yet). Here are two young men looking for their way in school with a mission for themselves. They want to read, "just not that much in school."
The same is true with writing.
Imagine a Common Core curriculum that represented heterogeneous populations of our American schools with the curiosity, questions, passions, and dreams that they have!