MahoganyBooks in southeast D.C., which carries a varied section of children's books, is headed into its third year of operations. (Courtesy of MahoganyBooks)
MahoganyBooks in southeast D.C., which carries a varied section of children's books, is headed into its third year of operations. (Courtesy of MahoganyBooks)

One way of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that has closed schools across the country through the end of the month is to get young children and teens engaged with reading. And what better time to take advantage with March’s designation as National Reading Month?

Regardless of age or grade level, having acquired good reading habits not only leads to academic success, it paves the way for notable future achievements as well.

It’s important to get children reading at a young age and I think it would be good if parents scheduled a regular reading time for their children while they’re away from school,” said revered children’s book author and D.C. resident Eloise Greenfield.

Renowned D.C. author and resident Eloise Greenfield has written several books geared to young children, including “The Great Migration: Journey to the North.” (Courtesy of bcbooksandauthors.com)

After reading, it would be good for children to discuss theirbooks in detail with their parents on what the writers did in developing the characters and how could they tell who the characters were,” Greenfield, 90, the celebrated author of 48 books with yet another currently in production, said.

“I hope that the books selected for them to read are books that will interest that particular child, because parents will then know their [children’s] tastes and interests,” she added. “It’s also a good idea to select books that children may not have expressed interest in.”

Courtesy of HarperCollins

The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress results show that more than a decade ago, the District was far behind the rest of the nation. But now the District is ahead of five states in fourth grade reading.

Now in its 19th year providing year-round programs that focus on motivating children and teens to read, the National Education Association’s Read Across America – supported by schools, libraries and other educational institutions partners annually with parents and students in celebration of National Reading Month.

Part of the project entails National Read Across America Day an observance in the U.S. held on the school day closest to March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

As DCPS progresses toward its Capital Commitment goal to have 100 percent of K-2 students reading on or above grade level by 2022, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee earlier this month took to Twitter to weigh in on the importance of reading.

“The Book Tree” by Paul Czajak, which serves as the National Education Association’s “Book of the Month” selection, details how after the mayor declares books dangerous and rips up every book in town, a young boy named Ado discovers how to grow them. (Courtesy of Read Across America)

“We are excited to celebrate our love of great books,” Ferebee tweeted. “I want to know which books you loved as a kid . . .  Share your favorite stories using #DCPSReads.”

Poised for its third year of operation, the Black-owned, D.C.-based Mahogany Books in Southeast, created by the husband-and-wife team of Derrick and Ramunda Lark Young, was named for their 11-year-old daughter.

The store, located inside the Anacostia Arts Center on Good Hope Road, specializes in books written for, by and about people of color including Latinx, Native American and African cultures, according to its website.

Due to the pandemic, Derrick Young said his store has been closed for the past few days, and that as a result, they’ve been focused on online sales where some of their children’s books are being sold at a discount.

“In terms of reading skills, it comes down to repetition. It’s a skill that requires continued usage” Young said. “Most educators will tell you across the board that reading a lot of books or newspapers for 15 to 20 minutes a day builds confidence, vocabularies and comprehension,” he said, “although I would suggest children read 30 minutes a day and that they read a variety of books.”

Young added that for children who are reluctant to read, parents should not only encourage them, but meet them where they are.

Lastly, “let the child kind of dictate what they’re interested in because it lowers their reticence about reading and removes the stigma they’ve come to associate with reading,” said Young.

Mahogany Books also sponsors a regular slate of events such as book signings. However, due to the virus pandemic several events, signing events by author Terry McMillan and comedian Tommy Davison have been postponed. A signing by journalist Ed Gordon tentatively remains on schedule for 4 p.m. March 29 at the bookstore.

Reading Tips

With area schools mandated closed for at least the next couple of weeks, here’s a list of proposed family activities to help engage children in reading:

Take your children to a bookstore: Spending 15 minutes in a bookshop on the way back from school is not a great sacrifice but it can be an effective way to show your child books give pleasure and make people smart.
Read aloud to a child in the morning: Parents usually read aloud to their children in the evening, as the last activity before it’s time for bed.
Let your child see you reading: Many people read less than they would like because they are focused on everyday duties – work, family, children. Try to read during a day to show your child books are important to you.
Place books everywhere in your home: Place them in the most commonly used places: a coffee table in the living room, a table in the dining room, a bathroom, or windowsills.

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