All of us at Turn the Page KC share the collective outrage and grief the Kansas City community feels because of the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and the people who came before and after them. All lives can't matter until we acknowledge Black lives matter.
We recognize that deeply rooted inequities continue to go unaddressed within our society, within our city, and within our own work. While recent forms of racial injustice are blatant, others are more subtly systemic. Many components of institutional racism cause roadblocks to equitable and culturally responsive education which is ready to build on the brilliance and potential of Black children. Our organization is focused on 3rd grade reading. Our work is rooted in equity so that we do not perpetuate systemic racism. We work to boost opportunity in the following ways.
Children are more likely to become engaged readers if they have access to books featuring characters who look like them. Providing books featuring Black characters, written by Black authors, Turn the Page KC works with schools and community groups to strategically stock school, home, and church libraries with thousands of inclusive books. This year alone, we distributed more than 25,000 new, inclusive books to Kansas City Public Schools, Hickman Mills, and charter schools.
When students get suspended, they miss an opportunity to learn. Black male students are far more likely to be suspended from school than their peers. The role that racial bias plays in this trend cannot be ignored. Turn the Page KC works with city leaders and academic researchers to shine a light on local school suspension data, and the inequities that persist within our own schools. We regularly convene education and community stakeholders to acknowledge and address this inequity.
Covid-19 has only magnified the systemic inequalities that persist in the United States, including access to virtual learning via technology To mitigate this problem, we have been working harder than ever to distribute learning materials and books to Black families in whatever way we can. We continue to advocate for funders and decision-makers to ensure that Black children and low-income families have equitable access to summer learning opportunities. When school opens again, it will be more important than ever to help children recover learning they undoubtedly have lost these past few months.
Our former Mayor Sly James founded Turn the Page KC after learning that 3rd grade reading proficiency is the number one predictor of high school graduation and future career success. As Sly has often said, 3rd grade reading proficiency is a civil rights issue. His vision was to ensure that all eight- and nine-year-old children in Kansas City had equal opportunities to learn and succeed in and out of the classroom. The example of his leadership, reading to thousands of children throughout his mayoral terms, inspired the community and spurred many to action. We are grateful to Sly for all his contributions to strengthen our city through literacy.
Our work continues. Our KC kids depend on it. Our Board of Directors and staff are deeply committed to the mission Sly James established and the power of diverse voices to meet the urgent challenge of educational opportunity for all.
We will continue to keep you updated. Please hold us accountable and provide feedback. Together we will fulfill our mission ensuring that every child in Kansas City can read proficiently by 3rd grade. If you have any comments or questions, or would like to support, volunteer or engage with us, please reach out to Mike English at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-718-8926.