My name is Grace Carroll and I created Wordsmith Jr, LLC after retiring from doing research, teaching and administration at Howard University and U.C. Berkeley. I am often asked why did I decide to create children’s books that focus specifically on literacy for children of color, particularly African American children. This was not a difficult decision for me as I have worked in schools from K – college and have seen the results of our children being cheated out of higher education due to lack of skills. They are bright, talented and often eager. However, they did not get the basic literacy skills or adequate teaching, support while in elementary school. This carries over into high school making them poor candidates for college. I also have ten grandchildren who are in the beginning stages of their educational journey. I want them, and their peers, to have the tools to break through these negative circumstances. Their mother, my daughter, the mother of eight, wrote eight of the twelve Wordsmith Jr book. She home schools and truly wanted to help parents and children to work together to teach and learn high-level literacy skills early. These skills open so many doors. The literacy data is truly an American crime and I hold responsible the educational system with faculty and staff that knows what works as research on what works has been available for years. However, the will to make the necessary changes in the educational system is lacking. The status quo prevails.
Teachers and administrators have advocates, unions and bargaining power but there is nothing comparable for students who are often cheated out of a good skill-based education. These students and their families are not the culprits regarding low literacy rates…they are the victims. Our children are often made to believe they are the reason they do not achieve. So why focus on literacy? We do this because of the aforementioned state of affairs and the literacy data that begs to be changed. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) less than half of our children nationwide are scoring at or above proficiency in all subject areas. Children seem to do worse the longer they stay in school as 8th grade scores are lower in most subjects than 4th grade scores. By the time they reach 12th grade instead of improvement, scores in math, geography, and US history are lower with reading still far below 50% at proficiency. These scores are even lower for African American students. This is a national tragedy that has to be rectified if we are to compete in the global society. Literacy is the cornerstone for successful achievement across all subjects. We must make reading FUNdamental for all children. This must begin as early as possible. The Akira series targets pre-school through first grade. We made our books colorful, exciting and with high expectations. We also made them to be read aloud to foster interaction, explanation and bonding between those reading and being read to. Children need to experience high expectations and a path to meet those expectations by advocates that want them to succeed. Let’s take on this challenge!