It started as a pilot program, designed to turn African-American boys in kindergarten into lifelong readers.

Real Men Read-y, founded by the African American Leadership Council of United Way and its partner, Read for Literacy, proved so successful that it has now been expanded into four Toledo Public Schools locations - Pickett Academy and Leverette, Robinson and Rosa Parks elementary schools.

The details of this new TPS push were released at a news conference on Monday, November 16 that included Dr. Romules Durant, CEO/superintendent of TPS; Rhonda Sewell, AALC co-chairman and governmental affairs and media strategist for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library; Craig Teamer, AALC Strategic Partnerships chairman and Jeanette Hrovatich, executive director of Read for Literacy. Also on hand was Darvin Adams, Real Men READ-y Coordinator via the AmeriCorp/VISTA program and Dr. Sidney Childs, interim vice president of students affairs for Bowling Green State University.

Dr. Durant quoted recent data released from the White House that shows that white male students are three times more likely to be proficient readers by the time they enter the fourth grade than their African-American peers.

The statistics are even more startling for children of color from low-income families, he said, with just 10 percent of African-Americans reading proficiently by the time they enter the fourth grade, compared to 25 percent for their white peers.

"Being a strong reader by the end of third grade is essential for classroom success since students begin to transition at that point from learning to read to reading to learn. Students who are not proficient readers are four times more likely to drop out of high school," he said. "I became a trained volunteer for one simple reason – it was the right thing to do. Early intervention for these students is critical for their academic success."

The structure of Real Men Read-y is simple: it recruits, trains and places African-American adult male volunteers - known as MENtors -- in participating Toledo Public Schools to conduct individual reading sessions two or three times per week with at-risk African-American kindergarten and first grade boys.

The program has grown from 20 voolunteers in three TPS schools last school year to more than 60 in four TPS schools for this year. 

At new news conference, Dr. Durant thanked the volunteers who have been with the program since its inception and those who just started.

"I say thank you – the time you will spend with our students is key to their academic success. And I guarantee, it will also have a lasting impact on you as well," the superintendent said.

"The early literacy rates are alarming for at least one-third of all children in the state of Ohio, but the data for African American males is extremely detrimental. This is unacceptable," Ms. Sewell, the AALC co-chairman, told The Sojourner's Truth. "That's why AALC of United Way and Read for Literacy, with TPS's assistance - and that of the dedicated men in our community, are here to close that gap and help our boys succeed in reading, in manhood and in life."

Click here to read The Sojourner's Truth article about the program: Real Men Read-y

Posted on November 20, 2015