Issue 417: 4 / 2 / 2012
A Southwest Associate Professor Helps Children Discover the Joys of Reading
Dr. Robert J. Walker, associate professor of Education, has found a unique opportunity to be a role model to young children in the city of Memphis by participating in the “Real Men Read Program.”
The Real Men Read is a library outreach program targeting inner city (urban) child care centers in Memphis, TN. The program was developed in 2007 by Inger Upchurch, manager of Cornelia Crenshaw Library, one of 18 branches of the Memphis Public Library. The program is designed to promote and engage young children between the ages of 3 to 5-years old in the joy and excitement of reading. The end product is creating lifelong readers and future leaders. The program is also designed to foster positive self-esteem in African-American children through being read to by African-American men who will also serve as role models/mentors.
“As an educator and community activist, this program gives me an opportunity to work directly with young children. As a college professor, I spend much of my time training college students to become teachers. By volunteering with Real Men Read, I am able to renew my hands-on experience of working directly with children. I can in-turn be a better teacher to my college students when I return to my college classroom. I am not just telling them what the book says, or what teaching strategies worked when I was a teacher 'back in the day.' I am sharing with them what teaching strategies worked for me a few days ago with a group of young children,” stated Dr. Walker.
More than the joy of reading to young children, Walker said the Real Men Read Program gives him the opportunity to serve as a role model for children who may not have a father figure in their lives. “It brings so much joy to the children, especially the little boys, when they see someone who looks like them reading to them. The program clearly helps to instill in young children the love for reading. The bottom line is, if you can teach children to read and develop in them a love for reading—the rest of their academic success will come easy. Reading is the foundation of all learning,” said Dr. Walker
The Real Men Read program material includes books, puppets, and props—such as musical instruments, using all themes from sharing, friendship, to holiday celebrations. Initially, it comprised four male volunteers visiting child care centers monthly and averaging 30-50 children (toddlers and preschoolers). Today, the program have increased to 26 male volunteers visiting child care centers once or twice a week and averaging 160-257 children (toddlers and preschoolers).