These Reading Programs Led By Men Are Inspiring Kids In Communities Around The World


This is what we like to see! There is a common misconception that the role of an educator or teacher belongs to a woman. When we conjure up images of a teacher, does a woman automatically come to mind? What about a stay-at-home parent or home school parent – a woman?

The world is definitely changing as are the “traditional” roles we assign to certain genders. This is a good thing. If we want a generation of kids to grow up with the knowledge that they are not limited in their life path because of who they are, we need to start setting examples now. That’s not to say a woman cannot choose to be a stay-at-home mom, or a man can’t choose to be an engineer, the principle lies in the freedom of choice.

We recently came across a couple of stories about men who are actively taking part in inspiring the kids of their neighborhoods with a program designed to help them read and learn. The first program is called Men of Color Read and is based in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.

Although the name suggests it, the group is not just made up of minority men, but they do serve schools in need of role models pushing the idea of education being the foundation of a successful life. The program began in February 2015 by a man called Jon Covington, who gathered a group of his friends when they realized there was a need to teach kids to read. Since forming, they have been meeting once a month at Edgewood Elementary School in Muskegon Heights.

The program has partnered up with other local initiatives like Young Brother which is focused on mentoring and supporting adolescents. The men involved say when they read to kids, they are showing them knowledge is power.


One of the original members is Eddie Sanders Jr., who is a local Church elder who says he gets excited to see the kids and interact with them.

“They are always looking forward to seeing us. We look forward to seeing them because we know that it is making an impact in their lives,” he told in a story about the program.

He also points out that this is the type of volunteer initiative that is going to have a lasting impact in the life of a child.

“There will always be a need for this work. Kids need to read because reading is knowledge and knowledge is power. Power opens doors. So we just try to be that avenue, that door for our children,” he said.

Aside from reading to the kids on a monthly basis, the program is also designed to position men as community role models. The visibility of men investing in the life of kids like this in a dedicated way is so important.

Pastor Adrien Thorne is another “reader” who was invited by his friend Eddie, and with three kids of his own, he couldn’t refuse an chance to sew seeds of opportunity in the life of other children.

“When you can read, you can chose, you are able to make a choice in life about what you want — it’s vital. We make our kids read 40 minutes to an hour everyday,” he said.

Developing the habit and the taste for success, with a foundation of education is what these men are giving to the children they read to. The community is supporting their efforts. Kindergarten teacher Iva Jones says some of the children have been inspired to become writers themselves.


“Reading time with the children is one of the most important activities that they can take part of. Here, they’re ready, they’re respectful and they want to learn. The reading introduces so many things to them. The author, the illustrator, the purpose for them writing a book,” he said.

Program member Edgar Watson says this is a win all around for these kids.

“A lot of times they don’t get to see men in an educational role, especially at the elementary level because most of the teachers are female. Seeing men actively involved in their lives makes an impact,” he said.

And it’s not just men in Michigan who are sparking the imaginations of kids, all the way across the other side of the world, a similar program called Real Men Read is driving kids toward education and empowering in the United Arab Emirates.

According a story in Thenational.ea, this is a month-long campaign modeled after a program in the US, and although they don’t say exactly which program, the Men Of Color Read program certainly fits the description! The campaign was started by education company Know Do Serve Learn who want to encourage men to be role models to children and wanted to participate in Dubai’s Year of Reading initiative.

Although the two cultures couldn’t be more different between Michigan and Dubai, the similarities of pushing men to be active role models in children’s lives beyond the typical narrative shows a shift in the way the world is receiving the messages around gender equality and empowerment.


In Dubai, Fahad Abdelkareem Elnawaisah is a businessman by day, but by night he transforms into a multitude of characters as he reads out loud to his children, a time he cherishes spending with them at the end of a busy day.

“I work all day and the time I get with them is so little that I want to make every minute count. Reading to them is a good way of doing that,” he told The National.

His children attend Al Maaref Private School, and their teacher insists men play an active role in educating their child.

“We always have the mothers follow-up on their progress, but I want the fathers to take responsibility for their children’s education, too,” said Abeer Abdel Baki, who has even encouraged the fathers to Skype with their children during the work day to read out loud to them.

In the United States, a study from Harvard University looking into the patterns and effects of parents reading to their children found that fathers challenged the children more and created an environment for imaginative discussions during reading time.


Reading is seen as a female activity and kids seem to be more tuned in when their dad reads to them – it’s special,” head researcher Elisabeth Duursma said in an interview.

Out of the 500 families studies, Elisabeth saw fathers would use more complex and abstract story-telling concepts directly related to the child’s experience, which in turn fostered better comprehension and creativity.

Initiatives like these reading programs have two very distinct but equally important objectives – breaking down gender barriers in the lives of children who will hopefully grow up knowing gender should not dictate or limit your potential, and impart a valuable tool in a child which is going to be far more powerful and impactful than any other tool, gadget, weapon etc. Malala has stated many times the value of education in a girl’s life, especially in countries where young girls are forbidden from going to school.

But elsewhere in the world, even where education is free and easily accessible, we must not forget the other societal factors that can potentially damage children from achieving their full potential. We hope more reading programs like this pop up all over the world and we applaud these fathers for stepping up and being role models in their communities.


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