|Dr. Irene Owens, dean, School of Library and Information Sciences|
The library schools at UNC–Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University will present a conference in spring 2012 aimed at developing strategies for improving the literacy of young black males. The conference, a collaborative effort by NCCU’s School of Library and Information Sciences and its counterpart school at UNC–CH, will be underwritten in part by a $126,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency that supports the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.
The gathering, titled “Building a Bridge to Literacy for African-American Male Youth,” will take place in Chapel Hill over three days in April or May. Among those expected to attend are members of the library and education community, researchers, representatives of organizations focused on the needs of African-American youth, publishers and young black males.
“The IMLS grant is a welcome acknowledgement of the urgency and importance of this challenge,” said Irene Owens, dean of NCCU’s School of Library and Information Sciences. “Extensive research shows that poor literacy skills among young African-American males have lifelong negative consequences. Libraries and librarians have always played an important role in promoting literacy, and yet there is no coordinated national effort to address this persistent socio-economic problem.”
The conference will focus on three areas:
• Research — Reviewing what is known about the literacy development and needs of young black males.
• Programs and Services — Examining the programs that support literacy development, and identifying what gaps exist.
• Resources — Identifying the resources needed to enable school and public libraries to remedy the literacy gap.
The findings will be summarized in a white paper that will serve as a call to action. Owens said the paper will inform a broad range of stakeholders about the extent of the crisis and offer recommendations for addressing it.
“This will not be a one-shot program,” Owens said. “An essential goal of the conference is to establish a means of sustaining the initiative. We have a magnificent partnership between two Library and Information Sciences programs, and we look forward to addressing this important challenge to our society together.”
Key participants from NCCU, in addition to Dr. Owens, will include Dr. Jonathan Livingston, a psychologist who has conducted extensive research involving African-American males; Dr. Pauletta Bracy, a longtime professor in the School of Library and Information Sciences and a specialist in children’s resources and services; and Dr. Kevin Rome, vice chancellor of student affairs, who oversees several initiatives at NCCU promoting the success of black male students.