Let’s face it: words are everywhere. Traffic signs, street names, store receipts, contracts and even the apps on your cell phone all involve reading.

By Jessica Dortch
AFRO News Editor

There’s a saying that goes “if you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.” That statement always bothered me because I couldn’t imagine life without literacy and the ability to absorb information that someone took the time to write down. Although I took to literature rather naturally, I’ve always felt that the lack of interest in reading in the Black community was one of the things that held us back. 

Historically, the ability to read was outlawed for enslaved Blacks and those who could read had to do so in secret. Other Blacks relied on those who could read to relay messages and share crucial information that Whites wanted to withhold from them. Reading was a form of independence, yet it is now seen as an option that, sadly, many Blacks choose to opt out of. 

Let’s face it: words are everywhere. Traffic signs, street names, store receipts, contracts and even the apps on your cell phone all involve reading. In my opinion, it is a basic necessity.   

When I was younger, my mother would take my sister and Me to different Enoch Pratt Library locations around the city every weekend. It was a free activity that was educational and got us out of the house for a while. We would spend hours there, reading, searching and collecting books to take home. The rules were printed in plain sight on the wall: “Quiet please,” yet the silence called me. I would grab something that piqued my curiosity, find a cozy corner near mom and get lost in a story that was waiting to reveal itself to me. 

Those experiences will stay with me for life and have even blossomed into a lifelong love of words and the opportunity to have a content-based career that I love.

The app deems itself as the ultimate reading experience and was created to make information as accessible as possible to everyone.

Over the years, I read less and less as other things filled up my time. And honestly, after a hard day’s work, sometimes that is just not how I want to spend my time, especially because I make a living as an editor. However, I wanted to up the ante and challenge myself to read more, and the Kindle tablet that I received for my birthday made it a lot easier to do so. I finished off a few novels in a few weeks, before I found myself basking in the residue of a gripping tale. It’s a strange space, but it prompts me to hurry up and find another story to immerse myself in. 

I saw a few Instagram ads for an app called Headway. The app deems itself as the ultimate reading experience and was created to make information as accessible as possible to everyone. With quick reads, ranging from 15 to 20 minutes, on a variety of topics, Headway enticed me to go on a self-help book binge.

This app has revolutionized my book collection and made it very convenient to read on the go, which is perfect for when I have a few minutes here and there to kill throughout the day. I can join book challenges, connect and read with other users and even set a weekly reading goal for myself. I can honestly say that it has been so refreshing to absorb, reflect and meditate on the nuggets from these short stories and in some ways it has changed my outlook on life. 

Reading is simply fundamental. It has always been something that relaxes me and gets me out of my head, for lack of better words. It was a quiet place that never went away and was always available whenever I was ready to visit. I can’t imagine life without literacy, especially now with all the apps, tools and other resources that make your favorite book accessible from almost any device, you can read as little or as often as you want. 

My story isn’t much different from other kids who could use a break from their reality or a safe space to cling to. I wish I could bottle up my experiences and share them with younger kids of color. If only they knew of the power, freedom and historical significance of literacy, they would see it as a gift and not a burden. Maybe they will fall in love like I did and their lives can, too, be changed. 

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