Early childhood education and literacy are two of the most important issues in the Black community. Education is an opportunity to change lives, particularly by uplifting Black women, who anchor many households, advocates said.
In March, Goldman Sachs, a global investment banking company, launched One Million Black Women, a new initiative that has committed $10 billion in investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic support to advance racial equity and economic opportunity by investing in Black women.
On July 21, One Million Black Woman hosted a virtual listening session on childhood education with NBA Superstar Stephen Curry to discuss how the initiative can help address challenges in early childhood education and literacy across Black America through strategic community investments and donations.
“This is a generational impact that we’re starting,” said Curry, who plays for the Golden State Warriors. “Investing in Black women means investing in the community and the country as a whole.”
Nationally, two-thirds of children are reading below grade level, Curry said before adding that the statistics are even more drastic and worrisome in the Black community.
To combat those statistics, Curry and his wife Ayesha’s foundation has focused its efforts on providing 16 million nutritious meals for children and their families in Oakland.
Other session participants included Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama; former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; national spelling bee champion Zaila Avant-garde; and Curry’s mother Sonya Curry.
“It warms my heart to know the world is changing towards Black women,” said Sonya Curry. “We don’t always get the accolades or the pat on the back.”
Experts said literacy begins before a child is born. Even in the womb, they can hear voices and music. As an infant, social interactions play a major role, by exposing them to language development. By the age of 3, it is important that children have a foundation for reading. And by 5, when they attend school, they should be able to read or have reading readiness skills that can be cultivated in kindergarten and first grade.
“When you are at home, make it fun,” added Sonya, who has been an educator for nearly three decades. “Sing songs, read and make it a habit. Create a habit early on.”
“Literacy was a priority in how we saw the world at an early age,” Steph shared.
Avant-garde, 14, said literacy was also a priority in her family. She said she was a very curious child, which led her to read at an early age.
“My favorite books are the Lord of Rings series,” Avant-garde shared. “Have books lying around on the table for children to look at.”
“We need to encourage teachers (and make them feel wanted),” Avant-garde added.
Another paramount issue brought up by Steph Curry was “what does quality education actually look like in America?”
“I can look at your zip code and tell if you’re going to get a quality education,” said Rice. “I’m very active with the Boys and Girls Clubs because that’s where the kids are.
“I want to invest in children who are the neediest.”
Meanwhile, an important part of improving childhood education centers around investing in teachers with resources and higher salaries, advocates said.
“Evidence-based strategies work,” added Jarrett. “Early childhood education is a right, not a privilege.”
Jarrett said she supports universal pre-k in the United States, which she believes will prepare young children for school and ultimately get them ready for life.