On a recent morning, a normally hidden employee of the "Steve Harvey Morning Show" stepped into the spotlight and made a bold confession. The security guard, whose nickname is Big Boom, had not voted in all of his 53 years.
He explained that he had never registered or voted because he could not read. He couldn't fill out the paperwork.
This may seem like an unusual reason for not voting, but it may be more common than you think. Big Boom's story is a poignant reminder that even in this historic year of African Americans breaking down barriers, basic literacy is still a challenge in many of our communities. Nine out of 10 African-American students have not mastered reading by the fourth grade, according to the National Institute for Literacy. And the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that African Americans scored well below white adults in an assessment of reading comprehension.
I've had my own up-close encounters with illiteracy. I've had neighbors and relatives ask me to read documents to them or fill out paperwork. Not all of them admit to struggling with reading, but I suspect that's why they sought my help.
Still, a couple years ago, when I decided to volunteer at an adult literacy center, I was surprised to see there was such a need. Working with the members of the all-male group, I could see the extreme social and economic consequences of African-American boys that don't learn to read. Some of the men spent years trying to distract others from noticing their handicap. Some struggle to gain employment and have difficulty navigating everyday life.
Filed under: Raw Politics
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