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Parenting: Literacy Advice from Mr. Mayo

05/02/2017 04:15PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez

By Joel Mayo

(Reading is knowledge. Knowledge is power.)


            I’m not your average everyday parent. Actually, I’m not even a parent. Godparent? Yes. Teacher? Yes. “Parent” to hundreds of students I have taught or am teaching now? Absolutely.

            I have the privilege of guiding my godchildren (...whenever my brother, sister-in-law and cousins let me) and every teenager that enters my English I classroom. I care about each and every one of those students like they are my own. I comfort them, cheer them on and celebrate whenever they do something well. I even scold them when they do something wrong. They’re my “kids,” and I’m invested in their future.

            The same goes for my godchildren. I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my godson when he was a toddler. Fortunately, I was able to see him grow up and was able to instill in him the importance of reading. Literacy is my thing. Considering I teach English for a living, I felt like it was my “godfatherly” duty.

            He enjoyed things like Captain Underpants and Harry Potter (a mega accomplishment in my eyes due to being a Potterhead...go Slytherin!), and he continued reading until he caught two dreaded ailments—his cell phone and adolescence. Yes. My godson replaced a book with a phone.

            I’d offer him a book to read and he would speak his favorite word: okay. Then he’d ignore me while he surfed subways and snapped a chat to his teen homies ( “homies” still cool?). Thankfully, he was able to keep his reading level and reading comprehension above average.

            My goddaughter is only two years old and has already started reading. cousin reads to her every night and she looks at the books. While she watches Netflix on her mom’s phone every now and then, she would much rather read or have someone read to her. It makes me happy and proud. The English teacher in me thinks, “Huzzah, literacy!” I know she’s on the right path.

            The constant reading is helping my goddaughter’s vocal skills, too.. She is able to form full sentences which normally two-year-olds don’t do. She now refers to me as Nino Stinky, which is fine.

            As a teacher, uncle, godparent and someone who has seen kids come, go and grow, I understand the importance of literacy. Even if it’s something as simple as reading a bedtime story once a week or reading the instructions to a new toy, exposing kids to reading is vital for youth. Our youth are our future. If we don’t invest in them and get them on the right track, our future is blight.


            Encourage your child to read.

            It’s never too late to start the habit of reading. Try reading every night. Go to Barnes & Noble or 2nd & Charles; they have the best children’s sections I’ve come across. There are also tons of programs around the county that encourage, promote and assist with literacy.

            Don’t forget about the public library! Cumberland County has a great public library system. Take advantage of their kid’s sections and the wonderful librarians who are always ready to offer you great resources. This goes for all of the libraries in the system.

            If you have a Pre-K through fourth grade level child, or one approaching that level, you will be happy to know that Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center has joined a statewide eBook consortium known as “NC Kids Digital Library.” This is a spectacular resource because now over 3,700 eBooks, audiobooks, read-alongs and videos are accessible through an app on computers and devices, including iOS and Android, as well as the Chromebook and Kindle. All that’s needed is a library card.

            We live in a digital age. Phones are more prevalent now more than ever, but literacy is still important. In order to counter things like the “teens” and the “cell phones,” why not take advantage of CCPL’s new service? It’s easily accessible and has no cost. Knowledge is power. Literacy is key to knowledge.

            Let’s empower our youth.

 Joel Mayo is a teacher at Gray’s Creek High School. He teaches English I and Yearbook and advises the Poetic Pathos Poetry Slam Team, Gamer’s Club and Harry Potter Club.


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