Reading program helps underserved youth learn literacy through rap


HOUSTON, Texas – Sixth graders at Fleming Middle School learn to read and write by studying the words of Bun B. Bun B is a professional rapper.

“You get to understand, like what they say when they rap, sometimes like when they go too fast, you can slow it down,” said 6th grader Kinnie.

Jarren Small and I are Douglas Johnson, and we are the founders of Read with a rapper.

“Reading with a rapper is a cultural way to understand black culture,” Small said.

Small and Johnson began reading with a rapper in 2018 to help bridge the gap between culture and education for young people in underserved areas of the United States. Currently the program is in Houston, Texas, Atlanta, Georgia and Kansas City, Missouri.

It is about to expand across the country.

“New York is on the list. Chicago, LA, DC, ”Small said.

“All we’re doing here is trying to give kids the information they need in a way that we think they can consume more easily and stay on a frontal lobe long enough for them to consume. ‘they can apply them in real time, things that stay with them throughout their lives, “said Bun B.” Hip-hop is a choice they made culturally, and they won’t stop doing it. ‘listen to music, but maybe they can start listening to it differently.

Small and Johnson say they’re working with Pepperdine University this fall to get data that shows how much of an impact the program is really making. Literature experts say success and self-motivation come when children find reading and writing fun.

Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington School of Information.

“If this kid is really into sharks, you just need to pull out every book on sharks,” Martin said. “Watching how kids interact with music, rap and spoken word in their communities and being able to bring that to class rather than saying you have to check this at the door – it’s a way to really get excited. children for their learning and on literacy.

Often, children say that class is their favorite part of the day.

“[I like] the rhymes, the beat and you can dance, ”said K’yron, a grade 6 student.

Bun B says that rap was the entry point into a musical culture in which he could actively participate.

“Hip-hop is where I ended up,” Bun B said. “But if hip-hop had already been there for me to help guide me, there is no time when I At that point, I could have ended up as a political science student, electrical engineer, whatever, right? Because I would have seen the world, and I would have had a larger world view.

Bun B says he is grateful for his life of opportunity and ready to share his knowledge with young people.

“Now I’m able to take everything I’ve seen and learned and done and give it back to the culture and the next generation of people who will hopefully fall in love with it like I did. Bun B said.

In this way, children can use their literacy skills as a springboard to pursue their passion.

“I want to be a YouTuber – play games, make music and create vlogs so that I can get money to help my family,” K’yron said.


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