25 years after my days in elementary school I still remember silent reading time. I’d grab a new book everyday and for 30-60 minutes I would impersonate a stellar scholar engaged in a great story.
But I never read; Not once!
I could read. I actually read very well. I just didn’t want to. The books that were available in my classroom were LAME and completely unrelated to me. I’m talking white leading characters, white supporting characters, white settings, white leaning plots, white language, etc. I saw zero value in the literary options.
Being fully transparent, I didn’t read a book cover to cover until I was 20+ years old.
That switch was inspired when I attended Florida A&M University (HBCU) my sophomore and junior year of college.
All of a sudden I was presented with material that showcased black people in a positive light. I felt excited and cheated at the same time. Excited because I was finally able to immerse myself in literature that interest me. Cheated because I experienced 12 years of traditional education and never remotely exposed to relatable content.
Prior to my FAMU experience I was conditioned to believe that the history of black people started with slavery and was followed with our never ending battle for equality. Prior to slavery, Africans hunted animals with spears and provided no significance to the world. My mind was blown when that narrative was completely dismantled.
Post college I became an elementary educator for St Paul Public Schools.
The one thing that stood out like a sore thumb was the number of young black boys that mastered the same impersonating reader strategy I once did as a kid. I thought to myself, ‘the books can’t be as LAME as they were 25 years ago’. Well I was wrong! Aside from the cool engaging literacy games one can find on an ipad; traditional short stories and books were still just as bland and disconnected to the minority experience.
Eventually I was informed about the achievement gap and the school to prison pipeline. If you are unfamiliar, in short, kids of color are performing substantially lower than their white counterparts. Only 10% of low income black boys are reading proficient in the 4th grade and prisons literally use 3rd grade achievement data to help calculate how many new beds they will need in the future.
For seven years I attempted to impact the young minds I crossed paths with every school day. Eventually I felt I could make a greater impact innovating through technology from the outside in. I retired from my position in September 2016 and began focusing more on a startup I founded called Shortiez which we are piloting this school year.
Our goal is simple. Build the most robust digital platform of culturally relevant short stories.
We want kids of color to see themselves reflected in the stories they read from day one. We want young scholars to be empowered by characters that look like them. We want storylines to be relevant. We want the language to be relatable. We want kids to enjoy reading, instead of impersonating it.
The only way to accomplish this goal is building a library of original content.
We are seeking creative geniuses to tell more enriching stories that speak to a diverse young audience. Publishing research confirmed that in 2014, 393 books were published ABOUT people of color but over half of the books were WRITTEN BY someone of a different race. We’d like to empower the underrepresented community to control their own narrative.
By the end of 2017 Shortiez will be integrated into 10+ schools, supporting 3000+ kids. I recommend checking out our sample story ‘Small Win’.
We are currently interviewing potential content contributors. We self select creatives that can visualize the long-term impact Shortiez can potentially have on our youth.
My name is Mondo Davison aka The Black Tech Guy and I look forward to connecting.