Bringing Black Boys Back

A look at the power of books

The Why of the Research

  • “According to many standardized assessments, educators in the U.S. continually fail to advance the literacy development and academic achievement of African American male adolescents, particularly the ones who live and go to schools in high-poverty communities” (Tatum, 2008).
  • One result of this failure is African American male adolescents continue to lag behind their peers in literacy.
  • Another key failure in literacy research concerning African American adolescents is that when policy makers plan literacy reforms, they often do not consider research on how social processes of race, class, and gender are interwoven into literacy (Greene & Abt-Perkins, 2003; Lesko, 2000; Swasnson, Cunningham, & Spencer, 2003; Tatum, 2008).

The Problem

  • These gaps in research all point to a major disparity in literacy and social justice. Not only is there is a lack of research in literacy among African American males, but researchers have failed discuss how literacy may be connected to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Leading Researchers

Theoretical Underpinnings

Critical Pedagogy

  • Critical pedagogy says the purpose of education is for social transformation toward a fully democratic society, where: (a) each voice is shared and heard in an equal way, (b) one critically examines oneself and one’s society and (c) one acts upon diminishing social injustices (Bercaw & Stookesberry, 2009)
  • Critical pedagogy calls for an active engagement with oppressed and exploited groups (Duncan, Andradee & Morrell).
  • Critical pedagogy demands that people repeatedly question their role in society as either agents of social and economic transformation or as those who participate in the asymmetrical relations of power and privilege and the reproduction of neoliberal ideology.
  • Critical pedagogy lies in direct opposition to the current education landscape in the U.S.

Anatomically Complete Texts


  • This relationship between the African American male and texts calls for enabling texts.
  • Enabling texts go beyond cognitive focus and have a social, cultural, political, spiritual or economic focus (Tatum, 2008).
  • When African American males encounter these types of texts they find it easier to make a personal connection with reading.
  • These text have four common themes. They a) contribute to a healthy psyche, b) focus on a collective struggle, c) provide a road map for being, doing, and acting and d) provide modern awareness of the real world (Tatum, 2007).